Approximately 80 years ago, two researchers predicted there would be a method for turning light into matter in the future.  Now, 80 years later, a new team of scientists are proposing a technique, which may make that theorised method actually happen.

This proposed method involves colliding two photons, the massless particles of light, which have extremely high energy, to convert them into two particles with mass.  In past experiments, such as the Breit–Wheeler pair production, they had to introduce particles that had mass into the process. The research guys over at Imperial College London however, claim that it is now possible to create a collider, which only includes photons.

The photon-photon collider works by firing high-energy photons into a field of photons emitted as blackbody radiation. When these photons smash together, it is believed that a significant number of them will turn from light to matter, (an electron and a positron).

Is a replicator too far away?

Einstein said that with enough energy, massless particles could be transformed into matter. But in order to come up with all of that energy, most methods have used electrons to provide an enhancement.

This experiment works in a similar way, but the critical difference is that this collider maintains all of the electrons outside of the vacuum where the collision occurs; thereby matter is created inside an environment that is devoid of it.

To accomplish this, researchers intend firing electrons into a piece of gold.  This would send high-energy photons into the direction of the radiation chamber. The electrons would go through the gold, but they would all be filtered out from the photons by using a magnetic field.

The London researchers haven’t said if they plan on production and then testing of the new collider.  They did say it would be easy to produce with existing technologies. The Department of Physics Professor Steven Rosesays said, “What was so surprising to us was the discovery of how we can create matter directly from light using the technology that we have today in the UK. As we are theorists we are now talking to others who can use our ideas to undertake this landmark experiment.”

So although we are far from a ‘Star Trek’ replicator, things are moving in that direction.  A paper that describes the researchers’ “photon–photon collider,” is being published in Nature Photonics.

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[Image via theblot]