Light was amplified 100 times by the interaction of photons and electrons

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed resonators that amplify

interaction between photons and electrons onseveral orders of magnitude using Smith-Purcell radiation. The technology will be useful for the development of electron microscopes and the creation of tiny particle accelerators (colliders) on a chip.

Interaction between photons and electronsused in a wide variety of technologies from lasers to solar panels and LEDs. The disadvantage of the traditional approach is that due to the different wavelengths of these particles, the interaction between the photon and the electron is very weak.

Physicists figured out how to improve this interaction.They developed a special photonic crystal, which is a silicon wafer on an insulator etched with an array of nanometer-sized holes. Theoretical calculations show that with the help of a directed electron beam, such a plate can generate a thousand times stronger Smith-Purcell radiation. Experiments confirmed the increase in light by more than 100 times.

The operating principle of the device istransfer of momentum from an electron to a group of photons or vice versa. While conventional interactions of light with electrons are based on generating light at a single angle, the photonic crystal is tuned to produce light at a range of angles.

Scheme of the experimental setup. Image: Yi Yang et al., Nature

In experiments, scientists have showna hundredfold increase in radiation using a repurposed electron microscope as an electron beam source. However, they note that potentially this method can provide a much greater improvement when using specialized devices.

The same process can be used in reversedirection: resonant light waves can accelerate the movement of electrons. This could potentially be used to build miniaturized particle accelerators on a chip. This means that some experiments that currently require huge underground tunnels, like the Large Hadron Collider, can be carried out in a conventional laboratory.

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On the cover: an artistic illustration of the interaction between electrons and a plate of a photonic crystal. Image: MIT