German researchers claim to have measured the shortest time ever recorded by observing the smallest time needed an electron to leave their atoms….
German researchers claim to have measured the shortest time ever recorded by observing the smallest time needed an electron to leave their atoms.
Until now, it was assumed that electrons begin to leave the atom immediately after impact by photons, light particles. This effect, known as photo emission was explained by Albert Einstein more than a hundred years ago.
But scientists from universities and Technische Hochschule in Munich, and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optical discovered that when light is absorbed by atoms and excited electrons are expelled by them, if light particles contain enough energy.
However, there is a delay in separation of electrons from atoms, which scientists consider a shortest time measured until now. Using a special technology for ultra-short measurement intervals, physicists launched pulses of laser light in the infra-red spectrum of neon atoms, a noble gas.
Atoms were simultaneously hit by extreme ultraviolet pulses lasting 180 attoseconds (shortest interval is named), releasing electrons from their atomic orbital. Moment when excited electrons left the atom was recorded and found that electrons of different orbitals, while simultaneously excited, left the atom with a small but measurable delay of approximately twenty attoseconds between them.
“A attosecond is one billionth of a billionth of a second, an unimaginably short time interval. After excitation by light, one electron leaves the atom sooner than another. As such, we could demonstrate that electrons” hesitate “briefly before to leave the atom. Therefore, postponing 20attoseconds, observed in electron release is, until now, the shortest period ever measured directly, “explains Reinhard Kienberger, one of the researchers.