Theoretical physics predicted that light existed as a particle and a wave at the same time since the time of Einstein and Schrodinger. The existence of light as a particle and the existence of light as a wave has been seen and proven separately but never together. A research team led by Fabrizio Carbone at the EPFL École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland has captured light acting as a particle and a wave in a photograph for the first time as reported in the edition of the journal Nature Communications.
The inherent problem with seeing light acting as a wave or a particle is that if one observes the particle the light, instrument, or device used to see the particle disturbs and distorts the wave properties. The same happens if one looks at the wave part of light only. This is one aspect of the Schrodinger’s Cat problem. Carbone and colleagues are the first people to ever observe light acting as a wave and a particle at the same time.
The researchers fired a short laser pulse at a very small nanowire. The energy from the laser made electrons move in waves in both directions away from the area in the nanowire where the laser heated the nanowire. The two waves of energy met and formed a standing wave that had different properties than the originating wave.
The physicists shot a stream of electrons close to the nanowire while the standing wave was in existence. The electrons interacted with the light from the laser induced standing wave in the nanowire. An ultrafast microscope took a single picture of the interaction. This is the first time that man has photographed a basic and proven tenet of quantum mechanics.