General, Research, Technology

Scientists create light waves that can penetrate opaque materials

Researchers at the Vienna TechnologicalUniversity and Utrecht University managed to penetrate opaque material with the help of special light waves, as if this material did not exist at all! Sounds almost like science fiction, but it's reality. With the help of special light waves, opaque objects can become transparent - at least for these light waves. Light usually cannot penetrate certain materials or only to a limited extent because it is scattered, changed and deflected. But an international team of researchers was able to show that there is a class of very special light waves, for which opaque objects do not seem to exist in nature. This means that for "any particular disordered medium" - be it a sugar cube or a glass of milk - individual attenuated (but not altered) light beams can be created.

Special light waves penetrate opaque materials.

A special class of light waves

Scientists believe that light waves are exactly like thisthe same as ripples on the surface of the water - they can take on an infinite variety of different forms. As the authors of a recent study published in the journal Nature Photonics explain, each of these patterns of light waves changes and deviates in a very specific way when you send it through a disordered environment.

Working on mathematical methods of descriptionof such light scattering effects, an international team of scientists used a layer of zinc oxide - an opaque white powder of completely randomly arranged nanoparticles - as a light scattering medium. The scientists sent specific light signals to this layer, which made it possible to measure how they enter the detector behind it. The results of the experiment allow not only to draw a conclusion about how the environment changes any other waves, but also to accurately calculate which wave patterns will be changed by the zinc oxide layer, as if it did not scatter the waves at all.

Light behaves like a particle and a wave at the same time.

In general, the results obtained showed that there is a very special class of light wavesthat produce exactly the same waveformthe picture on the detector, regardless of whether the light wave is sent through the air or must penetrate through a complex layer of zinc oxide. Notably, "zinc oxide doesn't actually change the shape of these light waves - they just get a little weaker overall."

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Light instead of X-rays

It is also interesting that now we ourselves can choosewhich image to send through the object without interference. For experiments, scientists chose the constellation Ursa Major as an example. Indeed, it was possible to determine the wave that is invariant to scattering, which sends an image of the Big Dipper to the detector, regardless of whether the light wave is scattered by a layer of zinc oxide or not. To the detector, the light beam looks almost the same in both cases.

In the future, as noted by the authors of the scientific work,this method could revolutionize some materials research, especially in biological and medical experiments. Today, to look inside the human body, doctors use X-rays, which have a shorter wavelength and can therefore penetrate the skin.

“But how a light wave enters an object does not exactly depend on the wavelength only, but also on the waveform,” notes Matthias Kuhmeier, of the Vienna University of Technology, in an interview with

In 2017, scientists concluded that laser technology could make objects invisible.

Read also: 10 most important experiments that changed our world

So if you want to focus the light insideobject at certain points, the method proposed by scientists opens up completely new possibilities. Judge for yourself - they were able to show that the distribution of light inside the zinc oxide layer can also be specially controlled. For example, it could be used for biological experiments to force light to penetrate very specific points, allowing scientists to look deep inside cells.

Note that in 2017, scientists developed a cloaking technology that can make opaque materials invisible using light waves from lasers.A completely opaque material is irradiated from above with a specific wave pattern - with such an effect that the light waves on the left can pass through the material without any obstruction. According to scientists, this method can be applied to different types of waves and should work with sound waves as well as with light.