At the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. This is the remarkable conclusion from work in applied physics at the University of Michigan. Quoting from their website:
“A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.
William Fisher, a doctoral student in applied physics, performing research on laser-induced magnetism.
The researchers found a way to make an “optical battery,” said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics.
In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics.
“You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We’ve all been taught that this doesn’t happen,” said Rand, an author of a paper on the work published in the Journal of Applied Physics. “It’s a very odd interaction. That’s why it’s been overlooked for more than 100 years.”
Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored.
by Nicole Casal Moore
[Via Alan Siddons]
More information here:
Louis Hissink is one reader of this blog who will perhaps not been surprised by this finding.
And it reminds me of that great quote from Albert Einstein, “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”