Sep 16, 2019

The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

(—Light behaves both as a particle and as a wave. Since the days of Einstein, scientists have been trying to directly observe both of these aspects of light at the same time. Now, scientists at EPFL have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of this dual behavior.

Quantum mechanics tells us that can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. However, there has never been an experiment able to capture both natures of light at the same time; the closest we have come is seeing either wave or particle, but always at different times. Taking a radically different experimental approach, EPFL scientists have now been able to take the first ever snapshot of light behaving both as a wave and as a particle. The breakthrough work is published in Nature Communications.

When UV light hits a metal surface, it causes an emission of . Albert Einstein explained this “photoelectric” effect by proposing that light – thought to only be a wave – is also a stream of particles. Even though a variety of experiments have successfully observed both the particle- and wave-like behaviors of light, they have never been able to observe both at the same time.


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  1. What a terrific video: Clear, simple, effective! Kudos to EPFL scientists. I suspect that this will have more practical fallout than just a photo.

    2019 will go down as a good year for visual evidence of phenomena…

    • In April, we got our first photo of a black hole (indirectly, of course)
    • And now, first photo of light behaving as both a particle and a wave