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November 17th, 2007
Scientists have worked out how to bring beams of light to a screeching halt inside a material that would separate the light into its constituent colors, creating a rainbow — a trapped rainbow.
To bring light to a stop from its usual approximately 670 million mph (1.08 billion km/h) pace is no easy feat, and scientists have been working on the problem for years in hopes of revolutionizing how information is stored and sent.
Hess's scheme remains in the theoretical realm for now, until metamaterials can be made small enough to manipulate the short wavelengths of visible light.
For metamaterials to work, "they have to be quite a bit smaller than the wavelength," Hess explained.
So for the shorter optical wavelengths, metamaterials automatically have to be nanomaterials, which scientists are on the verge of creating, Hess said.
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