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Scientists make a Mobius strip of laser light

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Unless you count incidents in Star Trek episodes, Möbius strips don't really occur in nature -- you have to create that freaky one-sided shape yourself. However, a worldwide team of scientists may have produced the next best thing. They've created a Möbius strip of light by manipulating the polarization of the light's inherent electromagnetic field. The trick involves firing a highly focused laser beam through a liquid crystal lens to give it a very specific polarization. When the light scatters at the focal point with the help of a nanoparticle, that polarization creates tiny, twisted loops. While these strips were made in a lab, of course, the experiment shows that they're at least possible in nature.

This demonstration might have some practical implications, as well. The technique should help researchers understand more about how polarization works, and could even help them create nanoscale light structures that serve specific purposes. You could see more metamaterials with unusual optical properties -- think surfaces that reflect light in specific ways, or give off certain colors. It'll be a long while before you see (or in some cases, don't see) a product emerge from this discovery, but it's already clear that this oddball behavior should work to your advantage.

[Image credit: University of Rochester]

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