Physicists develop a perfect light trap

Whether in photosynthesis or in a photovoltaic system: if you want to use light efficiently, you have to absorb it as completely as possible. However, this is difficult if the absorption is to take place in a thin layer of material that normally lets a large part of the light pass through.

Now, research teams from TU Wien and from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem have found a surprising trick that allows a beam of light to be completely absorbed even in the thinnest of layers: They built a “light trap” around the thin layer using mirrors and lenses, in which the light beam is steered in a circle and then superimposed on itself—exactly in such a way that the beam of light blocks itself and can no longer leave the system. Thus, the light has no choice but to be absorbed by the thin layer—there is no other way out.

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