Scientists have measured the shortest time unit ever: the time it takes for light particles to cross hydrogen molecule.
That time is 247 zeptoseconds for recording. Zeptoseconds are one billionth of a second, or decimal points followed by 21 zeros and ones. Previously, researchers were immersed in the area of Zeptoseconds. In 2016, researchers will report in the journal Nature Physics A laser was used to measure the time in increments up to 850 zeptoseconds. This precision is a huge leap from the 1999 Nobel Prize-winning work. First we measured the time in femtoseconds. This is a millionth of a second.
It takes femtoseconds for chemical bonds to break and form, but zeptoseconds for light to pass through a single hydrogen molecule (H2).To measure this very short trip, German Goethe University physicist Rainhard Delner and his colleagues shot X-ray From PETRA III of the German Electron Synchrotron (DESY), a particle accelerator in Hamburg.
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Researchers have set the energy of X-rays so that a single photon or particle of light knocks out two electrons from a hydrogen molecule. (A hydrogen molecule is composed of two protons and two electrons.) A photon bounces one electron off the molecule and then the other. It’s like a pebble jumping over the top of a pond. These interactions created a wave pattern called the interference pattern. This could be measured by Dörner and his colleagues with a tool called the Cold Target Recoil Ion Momentum Spectroscopy (COLTRIMS) Reaction Microscope. This tool is essentially a very sensitive particle detector, capable of recording very fast atomic and molecular reactions. The COLTRIMS microscope recorded both the interference pattern and the position of hydrogen molecules throughout the interaction.
“Because we knew the spatial orientation of the hydrogen molecule, we used the interference of the two electron waves to accurately calculate when the photon reached the first hydrogen atom and when it reached the second hydrogen atom. German Rostock, Said in a statement..
At that time? 247 Zeptoseconds. There is some room for shaking, depending on the distance between the hydrogen atoms in the molecule at the exact moment the photon flaps. The measurement essentially captures the speed of light within the molecule.
“For the first time, we have observed that the electron shell in a molecule does not react to light anywhere at the same time,” Dörner said in a statement. “Intramolecular information spreads only at the speed of light, which causes a time delay.”
Results were detailed in the journal on October 16th Science..
Originally published in Live Science.