Imagine windows that can easily transform into mirrors, or super high-speed computers that run not on electrons but light. These are just some of the potential applications that could one day emerge from optical engineering, the practice of using lasers to rapidly and temporarily change the properties of materials.
"These tools could let you transform the electronic properties of materials at the flick of a light switch," says Caltech Professor of Physics David Hsieh. "But the technologies have been limited by the problem of the lasers creating too much heat in the materials."
In a new study in Nature, Hsieh and his team, including lead author and graduate student Junyi Shan, report success at using lasers to dramatically sculpt the properties of materials without the production of any excess damaging heat.
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