The researchers’ calculations illustrate that the setup crushes enough particles of light with high sufficient energies into a small enough volume to generate about 100,000 electron-positron pairs.
The process is one of the most remarkable forecasts of a theory called quantum electrodynamics (QED) that was advanced in the run up to the Second World War. “You might call it the most dramatic result of QED and it clearly shows that light and matter are interchangeable,” Rose told the Guardian.
The researchers are confident to exhibit the process in the next 12 months. There are a number of locations around the world that have the technology. One is the huge Omega laser in Rochester, New York. But another is the Orion laser at Aldermaston, the atomic weapons facility in Berkshire.
A fruitful experiment will inspire physicists who have been eyeing the view of a photon-photon collider as a tool to study how subatomic particles behave. “Such a collider could be used to study basic physics with a very clean experimental setup: pure light goes in, matter comes out. The experiment would be the first demonstration of this,” Pike said.
Andrei Seryi, director of the John Adams Institute at Oxford University, said: “It’s breathtaking to ponder that things we thought are not linked can in fact be transformed to each other: matter and energy, particles and light. Would we be capable in the future to convert energy into time and vice versa?”