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News Release 04-161

Season's Greetings at the Speed of Light

MIT presents an ultrafast holiday offering

Holiday laser pulses

Each image shows the "snapshot" of a highly structured, half-millimeter-wide laser pulse.


December 23, 2004

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

 

Most days, MIT chemist Keith Nelson and his team do cutting-edge research with femtosecond laser pulses—flashes of light that last about a thousandth-of-a-trillionth (10-15) of a second, or roughly the amount of time it takes a light beam to cross from one circuit feature to the next in a conventional computer chip.

And most days, the scientists are focused on the serious, long-term applications of their work, which include a variety of potential uses in fundamental science, as well as in communications and signal-processing technologies.

As 2004 draws to a close, however, Nelson and his coworkers have demonstrated their techniques for shaping and manipulating the femtosecond pulses with a seasonal offering. Each of the symbols shown here is actually a highly structured, half-millimeter-wide swarm of laser photons flying in formation from left to right at the speed of light. The images are produced by analyzing the photons in an ultrafast detection system, then plotting their vertical position and time of arrival.

Result: the world's fastest holiday greeting.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
M. Mitchell Waldrop, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email: mwaldrop@nsf.gov

Principal Investigators
Keith Nelson, MIT, (617) 253-1423, email: kanelson@mit.edu

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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