Scientists make new discovery using 19th-century physicist’s theories

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown type of lightwave using the theories of a 19th-century mathematician and physicist.

Equations developed by pioneering 19th-century Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell have been used to reveal how crystals can be manipulated to produce a distinctive type of light wave, according to the University of Edinburgh, which was involved in the research.

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“The phenomena – recently named Dyakonov-Voigt waves – could have a range of useful applications, such as improving biosensors used to screen blood samples or developing fibre optic circuits that transfer data more efficiently,” said the University of Edinburgh, in a statement.

Portrait of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). Scottish physicist.

Portrait of James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). Scottish physicist. (Photo by Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis via Getty Images)

The discovery was made by an international team of scientists and engineers from the University of Edinburgh and Penn State.

“They found that Dyakonov-Voigt waves are produced at a specific region – known as an interface – where the crystals meet another material, such as oil or water,” said the University of Edinburgh.

Experts describe their discovery in a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

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Other theories by Clerk Maxwell have also been harnessed by modern scientists. In 2010, for example, scientists used the physicist’s work in an experiment to turn information into “pure energy,” according to LiveScience.

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