Various methods of scattering light and its potential applications in scientific and industrial procedures are taking the world by storm. The two most recent developments that have caught attention are, the formation of ‘super-twisted light’ in laboratory conditions and a second is that of holographic videoconferencing (the transmission of live images in three dimensional format).
The theories about super-twisted light and its utility have fascinated the scientific community for a long time. Light naturally has never been found to exist in this ‘super-twisted’ state. The use of super-twisted light in spectroscopy – the analysis of materials based on how they absorb and emit light – has numerous potential applications in biosensing and could also be used to detect particular types of viruses which have similar structures.
Now for the first time scientists have created this phenomenon, on the 08 Nov 2010 in Glasgow. The research team at the University of Glasgow twisted the light similar to a corkscrew by using a polarising filter. It was then shone onto a specially shaped piece of gold to create the world’s first ‘super twisting’ light.
Super-twisted light would prove very helpful in detecting protein traces in miniscule samples of biological material like blood. The findings published in Nature Nanotechnology reveal that researchers testing super-twisted light, observed it to be particularly sensitive to the structures of proteins which cause degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Malcolm Kadodwala, senior lecturer at the School of Chemistry, said: "We are very excited by this research. Essentially, this twisted light, which does not exist naturally, allows us to detect biological materials at unprecedented low concentrations. Due to the nature of the twisted light, it has been shown to be particularly effective at detecting proteins with a structure characteristic of amyloids – insoluble proteins that can stick together to form plaques within different organs in the body”.
He further elaborated, "We’re now looking to see if this same technique can be adapted to detect a wider range of proteins which are indicative of other diseases. The fact this method requires much less material (just one picogram or million millionth of a gram) for analysis than current techniques and uses a form of light previously unrealised is a big step forward.”
Polarised or twisted light has already been used in some medical techniques to analyse biomolecules. However the multidisciplinary Glasgow team has been able to achieve a much more powerful system by twisting light further. The team included engineer Dr Nikolaj Gadegaard and life scientist, Dr Sharon Kelly, with a team of physicists at the University of Exeter, led by Dr Euan Hendry.
Another very new and fascinating development is the technology developed by researchers at the University of Arizona, that can transmit 3-D images in near real-time. So it may not be too long before holographic videoconferencing becomes a reality.
Holography, which was developed about 50 years ago, uses lasers from light scattered by an object, to create an image. The way these images are constructed, gives viewers the impression that the image is multi-dimensional. Holograms are already used on driver's licenses, consumer packaging, kids' stickers and other products.
The journal ‘Nature’ (funded by the National Science Foundation) features this breakthrough technology as its cover story.
Similar to the plea Princess Leia made as a hologram saying "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi” in the original "Star Wars," people might be able to virtually attend conferences, participate in surgery, manufacture products and much more.
If researchers are to be believed they say, they are aiming to do ‘Star Wars’ even better, instead of displaying miniaturized, monochromatic versions of the projected objects, they want to display sleek images that are life-size, with colour and high-resolution.
"What we have come up with is new technology to do 3-D telepresence, which means we can take objects from one location and show them in another location in 3-D in near real-time," Nasser Peyghambarian, co-author of the Nature paper and professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona, said in a webcast about the research. "The heart of the system is based on holography and the images we send are holograms." But Peyghambarian said he and his team intend to write the 3-D images and then transmit them at a very high speed with the use of cutting edge materials and nanotechnology.