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Is it possible to store light for later use?

  1. Jul 20, 2012 #1
    hi, i heard from a friend that it's possible to store light within nanoparticles, but when i asked him how he refused to explain, which makes me doubt about the possibility, so i ask you, is it possible?
    Thanks for your time
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2012 #2


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    Sounds ridiculous to me. What does that even MEAN, "store light" ???
  4. Jul 20, 2012 #3

    Simon Bridge

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    A quick google for "nanoparticles store light" produces a lot of articles around the idea like: http://techsplurge.tumblr.com/post/13792884424/plasmonics-packing-in-the-light [Broken] (techsplurge)
    If one makes a metal nanoparticle just the right size and shape, it can store the light energy in its electric field and pass it on to other nanoparticles, when they are all electrically in tune. This process is called plasmonics.

    ... and http://www.neno-tech-views.com/photoresponsive-nanoparticles-allow-invisible-ink [Broken] (nenotech news)
    the concept is based on an β€œink” made of nanoscopic metal particles under the influence of light – to clump together into larger particles – in a reversible process.
    ... eg. you get light to make the nanoparticles clump, and when they unclump you get light back.

    I imagine that the friend has read something like this.
    You can, of course, store the light's energy in something and recover that energy later as photons.
    eg. if you use the photoelectric effect to charge a capacitor - the energy can be released later to drive a light-bulb: have you "stored light"?

    The only other thing I can think of is storing light in loops of optical fiber.

    One should be cautious of press releases - journalists tend to get over-excited by "what it means" and tend to stretch definitions to make the story more exciting.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Jul 20, 2012 #4
    thanks, i'll keep it in mind
  6. Jul 20, 2012 #5
    Light (photons) certainly can be stored, however, it's not like the photons are a bunch of marbles you can carry around in your pocket.

    To get a more satisfactory answer, you should try asking more specific questions. Try to be as accurate as you can with the terminology you're using. Ask yourself what it would mean to store light. E.g. Under what conditions could you say that you've stored a photon? What are you storing? are you talking about storing the energy that was carried by the photons, or the photons themselves? I'm presuming here that you're relatively new to physics: You might read up on what would comprise physics I & II at a university, especially electricity & magnetism and optics. This will give you a much clearer picture of fundamental concepts like fields, waves in fields, and the conservation of energy. A solid (read: mathematical) understanding of these topics will give you a better idea of the nature of light.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2012
  7. Jul 20, 2012 #6


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    You missed the news from back in 2001. This isn't using nano particles, but it does answer the topic.

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/01.24/01-stoplight.html [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Jul 20, 2012 #7

    Simon Bridge

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    ... though, to be fair, in this case OP needs to ask his friend what the friend what it would mean to store light for instance. OP has reported that this has been done and the friend was not forthcoming.

    We cannot tell what the friend was actually talking about - as far as we know he was like the the men in the children's story trying to get light into a windowless building with wheelbarrows.
  9. Jul 20, 2012 #8


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    There are several experiments which do something like "storing light". But the usual timescale is microseconds to seconds, and the stored amount is tiny. You cannot use those things to store light at daytime and use it at night, for example. Both the storage time and the stored amounts are too small by several orders of magnitude.

    Phosphorescence can store some fraction of the energy of incoming light, and emit light later (minutes to hours).
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