Published: 27 January 2013, 10:08
The Dirac equation, which governs the quantum mechanics of relativistic fermions, describes various fascinating phenomena arising from the combination of quantum mechanics and relativity. Unfortunately, in most cases the predictions of this celebrated equation cannot be tested experimentally, since commonly extremely high energies are involved in the phenomena associated with it.
In their most recent work, first-authored by the PhD student Robert Keil and supervised by the ACP members Tünnermann, Nolte and Szameit, a photonic structure in a glass chip was realized, in which the light evolution is described by an optical version of the Dirac equation. This allows the probing of relativistic effects using a classical optical setting with low-energy light beams. The scientists particularly focused on an analogy of their optical setting to a range of magnetic solids, in which certain defects that are distributed along the crystalline lattice exhibit long-range correlations, i.e., their mutual influence does not decay exponentially with distance as in most other solids. These correlations are responsible for various unusual properties of these magnetic materials. The goal of the current research, that was published in Nature Communications, was to transfer this concept to optics in order to develop a new platform for "relativistic" optical devices which provides a table-top model system for the Dirac equation and can potentially find use in information processing and transfer.
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Alexander Szameit
Phone: 03641 / 947985