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waves are phased to preferentially accelerate electrons travelling in one direction, or by otherwise distorting the electron distribution. The type of microwaves used is the same as those that drive current in the main plasma; however, different microwave beams from the array of launching waveguides drive separate current ribbons at the edge of the plasma. These are automatically aligned to the local magnetic field, leading to local topology changes. The result is a sixfold increase in the repetition frequency of the ELMs and a strong reduction in their amplitude in some cases they are completely suppressed. This discovery raises several issues for further investigation, both to improve understanding of ELM and pedestal physics and perhaps realize a potentialtool. These edge perturbations also have a positive effect on another key aspect of tokamaks the power exhaust. Most tokamaks have so-called divertors where plasma outside the last closed magnetic surface, in a region of open field lines, is channelled towards specialist plasmafacing components these are expected to take the highest thermal load of any component in the tokamak. Thus their design and materials (probably tungsten but other options including liquid metals are also being considered) are one of the present research challenges. The edge perturbations affect the footprint of the power on these components, moving power away from the highest thermal load regions and thus reducing the burden on the material. The combination of innovation and integration of plasma and technology demonstrated by the EAST team and their international collaborators is exactly what fusion needs, both to prepare the community for rapid exploitation of ITER and to seed plans for attractive and feasible fusion powerplants.
William Morris is at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 3DB, UK. e-mail: References
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Shimada, M. et al. Nucl. Fusion 47, S1S17 (2007). Li, J. et al. Nature Phys. 9, 817821 (2013). Doyle, E.J. et al. Nucl. Fusion 47, S18S127 (2007). Groebner, R.J. et al. Nucl. Fusion 53, 093024 (2013). Loarte, A. et al. Nucl. Fusion 47, S203S263 (2007). Evans, T.E. et al. Nature Phys. 2, 419423 (2006). Loarte, A. Nature Phys.2, 369370 (2006). Lang, P.T. et al. Nucl. Fusion 53, 043004 (2013).

Published online: 17 November 2013


Negative reaction
Thomas Philbin

Light pulses with positive and negative effective masses are now generated using optical bres. Nonlinear interactions between the two can then create self-accelerating pulse pairs, opening a new route to pulse steering.

ewtons third law states that in a two-particle interaction the forces on each body are equal and opposite. This actionreaction principle may seem intuitive, but its reasonableness relies on our natural idea that mass is always positive. Equal and opposite forces generate oppositely directed accelerations only because mass has just one sign. If two stationary particles with masses of equal magnitude but opposite sign interact in accordance with the actionreaction principle, then the particles will accelerate in the same direction, maintaining a constant separation (Fig.1). Negative-mass particles have long intrigued theorists1 but remain fictional. On the other hand, negativemass quasiparticles are real phenomena in condensed-matter and lightmatter systems. Now, writing in NaturePhysics, MartinWimmer and his colleagues describe how they created light pulses with effective masses of either sign using optical fibres2. Actionreaction forces arise between the pulses owing to fibre nonlinearity. This enabled them to observe two interacting pulses with effective masses of opposite sign forming a self-accelerating boundstate. Despite our modern notion of light as massless relativistic particles, light propagation in materials is routinely treated in terms of

Figure 1 | Self-accelerating particles. If two interacting bodies have masses with opposite sign, they accelerate in the same direction. Figurecourtesy of C. Bersch and M.-A. Miri.

the dynamics of massive particles obeying Newtons laws3. Photonic-lattice structures offer a way of controlling the effective mass of

these light particles because their dispersion relation can be engineered. A band that curves upwards in a plot of frequency versus wave vector has positive effective mass, whereas a band that curves downwards exhibits negative mass. Light pulses of both positive and negative effective mass may therefore populate a photonic lattice. But the self-accelerating bound state requires more than just control over effective mass; it also requires a mutual force between pulses. This can be induced by the optical nonlinearity of the material in the region where the pulsesoverlap. Spatial mesh lattices arrays of waveguides that are periodically coupled to their nearest neighbours inspired the photonic structure used by Wimmer and the team. Instead of using spatial slots in the waveguides, however, the mesh was created by a train of slots in time, an arrangement called time multiplexing 4,5. The time slots are set up in a loop of optical fibre; the slots move along the fibre with each one either empty or containing a pulse. To mimic the spatial mesh, the time slots must couple to their nearest neighbours. This coupling is achieved using a second fibre loop of different length, coupled to the first loop at one point. The differing loop lengths delay the time slots in one loop by one slot length compared with the other


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loop. Nearest-neighbour time slots are thus coupled to each other at the point where the loops meet, which mimics exactly the spatial mesh lattice and its dispersionrelation. Wimmer and co-workers inserted wave packets consisting of trains of pulses in the time slots. As required, the dispersion relation of this time-multiplexing arrangement exhibits two bands of opposite curvature, representing wave packets with positive or negative effective mass. In addition, the Kerr nonlinearity of the fibres introduces the necessary mutual attractive force between wave packets that partially overlap. Thus the team could show that two wave packets of opposite mass, exerting equal and opposite forces on each other, form a self-accelerating bound state; a dramatic demonstration of negative mass combined with Newtons actionreactionprinciple. In a second experiment, the team created an effective potential for the wave packets using an external phase modulation. A potential well induces a force on the wave packets that is directed towards the potential minimum, but the direction of the acceleration depends on the sign of the effective mass. Wave packets with positive mass are attracted to the centre of the well, whereas negative-mass packets are repelled by the samepotential. These results are another example of a familiar lesson in physics: basic principles can successfully describe and control very complicated systems. But this can involve pushing these principles beyond what was permissible in their original domain. Othersystems may prompt similar extensions of our thinking about basicmechanics.
Thomas Philbin is in the Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Exeter, ExeterEX44QL,UK. e-mail: References
1. Bondi, H. Rev. Mod. Phys. 29, 423428 (1957). 2. Wimmer, M. et al. Nature Phys. 9, 780784 (2013). 3. Born, M. & Wolf, E. Principles of Optics 7th edn (CambridgeUniv.Press, 1999). 4. Bouwmeester, D., Marzoli, I., Karman, G., Schleich,W. & Woerdman,J. Phys. Rev. A 61, 013410 (1999). 5. Schreiber, A. et al. Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 050502 (2010).

Published online: 13 October 2013


How to live longer

Cyrus F. Hirjibehedin

The spin lifetime of a paramagnetic molecule on a superconducting surface is increased by orders of magnitude thanks to the effect of the superconducting gap, leading to improved control of molecular spin systems.


ecoupling an individual atom or molecule from its solid-state surroundings is often the key to allow it to clearly manifest its quantum spin properties, which can be exploited for new applications in information processing, data storage and sensing. Writing in

NaturePhysics, BenjaminHeinrich and colleagues1 report that the gap in the density of states (DOS) in a superconductor can be used to suppress the dominant spin relaxation mechanisms for magnetic molecules on the superconducting surface leading to a significant enhancement of the

EF Energy

Figure 1 | A spin coupled to different substrates. a, When an atomic or molecular spin is placed on a metal surface with an approximately constant DOS near the Fermi energy (EF), the spin excitation energy (represented by the blue vertical arrow in the energy plot) is in a region with a large DOS. The spin is therefore strongly coupled to the metal (illustrated by the solid red arrow). b, If a thin insulating layer (orange slab) is placed between the metal and the spin, the DOS is strongly suppressed within the band gap and therefore the spin is less strongly coupled (dashed red arrow) to the underlying metal. c, If the spin is placed on a superconductor with an appropriate gap, spin excitations can be below the gap energy; this will strongly suppress various spin relaxation mechanisms.

excited-state spin lifetimes. This may enable easier access, control and preservation of coherent superpositions of the molecular spin configurations and suggests that superconducting substrates can form an excellent foundation for supporting decoupled magnetic nanostructures. When fully isolated from its environment, the spin of a single atom or molecule has several different eigenstates that can in principle be coherently initialized, manipulated and read out. In addition to being a rich testing ground for fundamental quantum phenomena, these systems have properties that can be exploited in both classical and quantum computation schemes2. However, for spins in real physical systems, the coupling to the environment can strongly modify their properties. At the most basic level, bonding can alter the structure and charge state of the system, which can substantially change the magnetic properties. Other interactions, including coupling to nearby spins, can also lead to negative effects such as decoherence. Complex phenomena can arise from the coupling between the spin and the host environment if the latter is a metallic system. This presents a considerable challenge as many proposals for devices based on the spin of individual molecules require them to be close to metallic leads3. Most directly,



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