Imperial physicists have recreated the famous double-slit experiment, which showed light behaving as particles and a wave, in time rather than space.

The experiment relies on that can change their in fractions of a second, which could be used in new technologies or to explore fundamental questions in physics.

The original , performed in 1801 by Thomas Young at the Royal Institution, showed that light acts as a wave. Further experiments, however, showed that light actually behaves as both a wave and as particles—revealing its .

These experiments had a profound impact on , revealing the dual particle and wave nature of not just light, but other "particles" including electrons, neutrons, and whole atoms.

Now, a team led by Imperial College London physicists has performed the experiment using "slits" in time rather than space. They achieved this by firing light through a material that changes its properties in femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second), only allowing light to pass through at specific times in quick succession.

Lead researcher Professor Riccardo Sapienza, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, said, "Our experiment reveals more about the fundamental nature of light while serving as a stepping-stone to creating the ultimate materials that can minutely control light in both space and time."

Details of the experiment are published today (April 3) in Nature Physics.

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