June 24, 2008--To observe the motion of electrons in atoms, ultrafast speeds have been achieved by a team of physicists of the "Munich-Centre for Advanced Photonics" (MAP). For the first time, scientists have advanced metrology into the temporal range below 100 attoseconds, by producing the first light pulses lasting approximately 80 attoseconds.
In cooperation with their colleagues at the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley (USA) researchers of the team of professor Ferenc Krausz at Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching, Germany, and Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU) and professor Ulf Kleineberg at LMU have produced the first light pulses lasting just approximately 80 attoseconds with ultrashort laser flashes. An attosecond is a billionth of a billionth of a second.
This achievement affords access to real-time observation of the fastest electron motions inside atoms, molecules, and solids. Insight into electron processes can lead to the development of new light sources, exploration of the microscopic origin of serious illnesses, or gradual advancement of electronic data processing towards the ultimate limits of electronics.
"Pulses shorter than 100 attoseconds will provide access to hitherto unresolved electron dynamics, particularly electron-electron interactions in real time," said Eleftherios Goulielmakis, head of the team conducting the experiments in Krausz' research group. "Electrons are omnipresent in vital microscopic processes just as in technology. Their ultrafast motion governs the course of all biological and chemical processes, as well as the speed of the microprocessors constituting the core of computers," explains Ferenc Krausz. "By means of attosecond technology we shall one day be able to observe in real time how the microscopic motion of electrons in molecules initiates diseases such as for example, cancer. We shall likewise be able to switch electric current in atomic circuits with infrared light many trillionth times per second."
For full details, visit www.mpq.mpg.de.