No, we’re not going to suck ourselves into it. Don’t worry. The black hole only sucks light into it. Everything else is safe. The inventors, by the way, are Chinese.
While of course it’s very cool that humanity has succeeded in creating a black hole on Earth, the implications could be profound. If you can create a black hole, you can by definition trap and store light energy. This means you have a whole new way of storing solar energy for electricity. It could potentially be used to harvest solar energy in places where the light is too spread out for mirrors to push it onto a cell. An optical black hole would suck it in and direct it at a solar cell sitting at the center of the hole.
Quick overview on how it works: The way I understand it is that instead of curving spacetime itself, which requires a heck of a lot of matter in an infinitesimally small space – something that we don’t have and can’t do – these scientists have succeeded in curving electromagnetic waves, waves that cause light to bend. They’ve succeeded in bending it enough that the light curves inwards towards the device and gets absorbed. The object then takes the light and converts it into heat.
The guys that made it – Tie Jun Cui and Qiang Cheng at the Southeast University in Nanjing, China. “When the incident electromagnetic wave hits the device, the wave will be trapped and guided in the shell region towards the core of the black hole, and will then be absorbed by the core,” says Cui. “The wave will not come out from the black hole.”
Got it? By the way, this black hole only traps light in the microwave frequency. That’s not exactly visible (we can only see roughly from the infrared range until the UV range, and microwave is a bit higher than UV), but now that they’ve got it down for one frequency, they will most likely be able to do it for others at some point.
I can think of other potential uses for this thing. One is radiation clean up. If they can get it working for frequencies higher than microwaves, they can stick one in the middle of a gamma ray infested area or something and vacuum the place up. I say this as a layman, but it sounds right to me.