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31 January 2015

Scientists Slow Down the Speed of Light As It Travels Through Air

Two photons, or particles of light approach a finish line used to determine if light can travel at different speeds through the air

Light passes through air at about 299,000,000 meters per second, an accepted constant that hasn't been challenged--until now. By manipulating a single particle of light as it passed through free space, researchers have found a way to slow down the speed of light through air.

Scientists have known for a while how fast light passes through different mediums, such as water or glass, and how to slow that speed down. But researchers decided to take this concept further and see if the speed of light could be changed as it passes through gases.

The study was published January 23 in Science Express. Next, Romero says, they want to conduct the experiment using a camera and classical light rather than single photons.

The team plans to extend their findings to sound waves. As far as practical applications go, Romero says the effect of the study will mostly be felt in the use of microscope optics.