This Is How Sound Is Turned Into Light

February 1, 2016 | Johannes Van Zijl

light waves, sound waves

Under some circumstances, sound can actually form light!

It might come as a surprising fact that it is possible to turn sound into light. The phenomena are called “sonoluminescence” whereby a loud sound generates an emission of light

The best example to explain this phenomena the mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) which uses a sonic shock wave to help catch its prey. The shrimp squeezes out jets of water from its claws which travel at such a fast speeds that the water “cavitates” inwards. In other words, the negative pressure causes the liquid water to be pulled apart into bubbles of water vapor. When these water bubbles collapse into themselves, this remarkable event emits a flash of light. The light flashes that are produced are extremely short, lasting only 100 picoseconds, and they are surprisingly high energy, at almost ten times hotter than the temperature on the sun.

How sonoluminescence generates light is not fully understood yet. In this video by MinutePhysics they cover some potential theories to explain this phenomena upfront.

You might also like: Scientists Can Build Molecules Made of Pure Light

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