Tech professor cited in connection to experimental validation of ‘Hawking radiation’

Oct 4, 2010 | Engineering and Science, Research and Development

A new approach aiming to recreate physical phenomenon in close proximity to black holes developed by Dr. Dentcho Genov, assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering at Louisiana Tech University, may have contributed to answering one of the most monumental questions in theoretical physics.
Physicists in Italy have experimentally reproduced “Hawking radiation” – thermal energy radiated at the edge of a black hole – using a table-top optical “toy” model of a black hole.  Table-top experiments based on metamaterials were introduced by Genov in 2008 to study the electromagnetic environment in close proximity to a black hole.
Hawking radiation is named for world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who provided the theoretical argument for its existence in 1974.
“Many groups all around the world are now working hard to reproduce, in the laboratory, a number of physical phenomenon related to gravitational black holes,” said Genov.  “Our recent work at Louisiana Tech has opened this field by proposing to develop a ‘metamaterial’ which was to serve as a table-top experiment that recreates the electromagnetic environment in close proximity to a black hole.”
Metamaterials are artificial structures that display properties beyond those available in naturally-occurring materials.
Genov says that soon after he and his collaborators published their proposal, the first experimental validation of the concept came from the Southeast University in Nanjing, China.  This year, two Italian groups pushed the envelope still further using an optical “toy” model, proposed by a physicist at the University of St. Andrews (UK) to provide experimental evidence of Hawking radiation.
“Hawking radiation is a mysterious phenomenon, where virtual particles and antiparticles are generated at the black hole event horizon,” Genov said.  “As a result the black hole is no longer truly a ‘black hole’ but emits a small amount of energy that can potentially be detected.”
Genov believes what the Italians have achieved is truly amazing and that while their measurements of Hawking radiation does not provide the entire picture, their work is the closest physicists can get to actually study this peculiar quantum phenomenon.
“Considering the vast distances between us and potential black holes in our galaxy, it is inconceivable to think that in the near future we will be able to directly measure Hawking radiation originating from these distant objects.”
In addition to his being cited in connection to this recent Hawking radiation discovery, Genov’s groundbreaking research in metamaterials has been published in some of the world’s most prestigious journals.
Last year, Genov landed the cover of Nature Physics, one of the world’s most respected physics journals, highlighting his article, “Mimicking celestial mechanics in metamaterials.”  The article linked the newly emerging field of artificial optic materials with celestial mechanics in order to investigate celestial phenomenon in a controlled laboratory environment.
Aside from this most recent discovery by the Italian scientists, Genov believes the other best chance for proving Hawking radiation is if high energy accelerators such as the recently commissioned Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland succeed in creating an actual tiny black hole here on earth.  Other Louisiana Tech researchers are actively involved in these experiments at the LHC.
“Until then, using a cleverly designed artificial optical medium is probably our best chance to get some new insight into the mystery which we call a ‘black hole.’”