The dream of turning useless into valuable has been alive since Midas touched items to turn them to gold. Now scientists have apparently cracked how to turn light into matter, just like Star Trek's replicator.
The theory was proposed way back in 1934 when Gregory Breit and John Wheeler proposed the idea of smashing two photons (light particles) together to create an electron and positron (matter). Now physicists at Imperial College London have figured out how to prove the theory was correct, using a photo-photon-collider.
Now the science bit, deep breath. Two varied photons are created using different methods. The first will use a high intensity laser to speed electrons up to near the speed of light. They will then be fired at a slab of gold which will beam photons with a billion times more energy than lightspeed. The second source is created by a high-energy laser fired into a gold canister called hohlraum (cavity, in German) which creates thermal radiation equivalent to the light of stars. The two forms then collide to create around 100,000 electron-positron pairs. And breath out.
Department of Physics Professor Steven Rosesays: "What was so surprising to us was the discovery of how we can create matter directly from light using the technology that we have today in the UK. As we are theorists we are now talking to others who can use our ideas to undertake this landmark experiment."
The experiment is planned for within 12 months time meaning a replicator could be a reality sooner than we'd hoped. It looks like 3D printers may be getting upgraded to create, potentially, anything soon.