Researchers have worked out how to make matter from pure light and are drawing up plans to demonstrate the feat within the next 12 months.
The theory underpinning the idea was first described 80 years ago by two physicists who later worked on the first atomic bomb. At the time they considered the conversion of light into matter impossible in a laboratory.
But in a report published on Sunday, physicists at Imperial College London claim to have cracked the problem using high-powered lasers and other equipment now available to scientists.
"We have shown in principle how you can make matter from light," said Steven Rose at Imperial. "If you do this experiment, you will be taking light and turning it into matter."
The scientists are not on the verge of a machine that can create everyday objects from a sudden blast of laser energy. The kind of matter they aim to make comes in the form of subatomic particles invisible to the naked eye.