Scientists have measured the shortest interval of time recorded, given how long it takes a particle of light to cross a molecule of hydrogen.
According to a team of German researchers, 247 zyptosonds were taken in the ultra-quick trip, of which one gyptosonk represents one trillionth of a second. This is equal to 1 written behind a decimal point and 20 zeros.
The findings are the culmination of global efforts to measure shorter and shorter time intervals in physics, and they provide scientists with a way to precisely measure atomic changes in the form of photoelectric effects.
Albert Einstein proposed a theory of photoelectric effect in 1905, describing the phenomenon in which electrons can be ejected from atoms as they are exposed to light. In 1999, an Egyptian chemist, Ahmed Zevail, used ultrashort laser pulses to detect how the shape of the molecules changes. Zvell, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for his research, measured these slight variations in minesconds; One femtosecond is one-tenth of a billionth of a second.
Now scientists at Goethe University in Frankfurt, the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin and Deci, a particle accelerator from Hamburg, have also measured a small division of time. Their results were published on 16 October in the journal Science.
The researchers fired an X-ray from a PETRA III accelerator on a molecule of hydrogen (H2), which is made up of two protons and two electrons. Scientists said they used a particle of light or a photon to release electrons. They then used rapid bursts from a second near-infrared laser to detect subsequent interactions.
When the photon collided with the hydrogen molecule, it first ejected one electron and then quickly stirred the other to throw the pebble to the surface of the water. The effect caused the waves to form what is known as an “interference pattern”, which allowed scientists to measure electrons accurately as they were escaping.
“Since we knew the spatial orientation of the hydrogen molecule, we used it to accurately calculate the interference of two electron waves when the photons reached the first and second hydrogen atoms,” Sven Grundmann, a Ph.D. The candidate at Goeth University, whose dissertation is the basis for the new study, said in a statement.
From the beginning to the end, it took 247 zeptoseconds for the photon to pass through the hydrogen molecule, although there is some variation depending on the separation of the atoms in the hydrogen molecule when they collide with the photon, according to Grundmann.
“We first noticed that the electron shell in a molecule does not react to light everywhere at the same time,” Goethe’s professor of nuclear physics, Reinhard Dauner, said in a statement. “There is a time delay because the information within the molecule spreads only at the speed of light.”