Harvard physicist Lene Hau was able to slow down light to 17 meters per second and in 2001, was able to stop light completely.
Lene Vestergaard Hau (born in Vejle, Denmark, on November 13, 1959) is a Danish physicist. In 1999, she led a Harvard University team who, by use of a superfluid, succeeded in slowing a beam of light to about 17 metres per second, and, in 2001, was able to stop a beam completely. Later work based on these experiments led to the transfer of light to matter, then from matter back into light, a process with important implications for quantum encryption and quantum computing. More recent work has involved research into novel interactions between ultracold atom and nanoscopic scale systems. In addition to teaching physics and applied physics, she has taught Energy Science at Harvard, involving photovoltaic cells, nuclear power, batteries, and photosynthesis. As well as her own experiments and research, she is often asked to speak at International Conferences, and is involved in structuring the science policies of various institutions. She was Keynote Speaker at EliteForsk-konferencen 2013, (Elite Research Conference) in Copenhagen, February 7, 2013, which is attended by government ministers, as well as senior science policy and research developers in Denmark.
After being awarded her B.S. degree in Mathematics in 1984, Hau continued to study at the University of Aarhus for her Master’s degree in Physics which was awarded two years later. For her doctoral studies in quantum theory Hau worked on ideas similar to those involved in fibre optic cables carrying light, but her work involved strings of atoms in a silicon crystal carrying electrons. While working towards her doctorate Hau spent seven months at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics near Geneva. She received her doctorate from the University of Aarhus in Denmark in 1991, but by this time her research interests had changed direction. In 1991 she joined the Rowland Institute for Science at Cambridge as a scientific staff member, beginning to explore the possibilities of slow light and cold atoms. In 1999, Hau accepted a two-year appointment as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. Her formalized training is in theoretical physics but her interest moved to experimental research in an effort to create a new form of matter known as a Bose–Einstein condensate. “Hau applied to the National Science Foundation for funds to make a batch of this condensate but was rejected on the grounds that she was a theorist for whom such experiments would be too difficult to do.” Undeterred, she gained alternative funding, and became one of the first handful of physicists to create such a condensate. In Sept. 1999 she was appointed the Gordon Mckay Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Physics at Harvard. She was also awarded tenure in 1999, and is now Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard. In 2001 she became the first person to stop light completely, using a Bose–Einstein condensate to achieve this. Since then she has produced copious research, and new experimental work, in electromagnetically induced transparency, various areas of quantum physics, photonics and contributed to the development of new quantum devices and novel nanoscale applications.