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Proceedings Paper

Do single photons tunnel faster than light?
Author(s): Herbert G. Winful
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Paper Abstract

Experiments done with single photons in the early 1990's produced a surprising result: that single photons pass through a photonic tunnel barrier with a group velocity faster than the vacuum speed of light. This result has stimulated intense discussions related to causality, the speed of information transfer, the nature of barrier tunneling and the meaning of group velocity. The superluminality of tunneling photons is now textbook material, although the authors note that controversy still remains. Another paradoxical result, known as the Hartman effect, is that the tunneling time of the photons becomes independent of barrier length in the limit of opaque barriers. In this paper we examine the meaning of group velocity in the context of barrier tunneling. We ask whether a single tunneling photon can be described by a group velocity and whether the short group delays imply superluminal group velocity. We resolve the paradox of the Hartman effect and show that the predicted and measured group delays are not transit times but photon lifetimes.

Paper Details

Date Published: 31 August 2007
PDF: 4 pages
Proc. SPIE 6664, The Nature of Light: What Are Photons?, 66640C (31 August 2007); doi: 10.1117/12.740086
Show Author Affiliations
Herbert G. Winful, Univ. of Michigan (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6664:
The Nature of Light: What Are Photons?
Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri; Al F. Kracklauer; Katherine Creath, Editor(s)

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