Laser beam traps long-lived sound waves in crystalline solids

April 3 (UPI) — In a series of experiments, scientists at Northern Arizona University used a laser beam to propagate, trap and later access long-lived sound waves inside specially designed crystalline solids.

Researchers believe the so-called bulk crystalline optomechanical systems could be used for information processing and storage.

When an intense laser beam passes through a transparent medium, both sound waves and new colors of light are produced through an effect called Brillouin scattering.

“Within specially designed pristine crystalline systems at very low temperatures, Brillouin scattering can produce sound waves that persist very long times, much longer than at room temperature,” physicist Ryan Behunin said in a news release. “This phenomenon is intriguing because the longer a sound wave lives, the more useful it can be for things such as precision sensors — or for use with quantum computers, systems that can achieve exponential speeds over your desktop computer for certain types of calculations.”

Many everyday technologies, including mobile phones and global positioning systems, already use sound waves, but researchers believe their latest breakthrough — described in the journal Nature Physics — could help scientists adopt acoustic technologies for use in the field of quantum computing.

The coupling of light and sound inside specially designed crystals could power the components of quantum systems.

“We’re very excited about the prospects for this work,” Behunin said. “In the future we hope this system will enable searches for new physics, unique forms of precision sensing and novel approaches to quantum information processing.”