Born on 13 November 1959 in Vejle, Denmark, physicist Lene Vestergaard Hau is best known for her work slowing and stopping light. She received a bachelor’s in mathematics and a master’s and a PhD in physics from Aarhus University in Denmark. Working at Harvard and the nearby Rowland Institute for Science, Hau’s research throughout the 1990s focused on developing ultracold gases that would act to slow down beams of light. Using a technique she pioneered to cool sodium atoms, she created Bose–Einstein condensates with temperatures fractions of a degree above absolute zero. When she and her team shined a laser through that condensate in 1999, the pulse speed dropped to about 17 m/s. Two years later, Hau one-upped herself by stopping light dead in its tracks. Hau’s group sent photons into a condensate, where they imprinted their information onto atoms. After milliseconds, the information stored in the atoms was transferred back to the light field, reconstituting the original pulse. Hau had stopped and stored light before sending it back on its way. Since then Hau, now a professor at Harvard, has continued refining interactions between matter and light, which could have applications in telecommunications and quantum computing. Hau is a MacArthur Fellow and has been elected to several scientific societies, including the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
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13 November 2017
In exploring the interactions between matter and light, the Danish physicist has slowed and even completely halted laser pulses.
© 2017 American Institute of Physics