Scientists have measured the shortest time unit of all: the time it takes for a light particle to cross a hydrogen composite.
That time, to score, is 247 zeptoseconds. zeptosecond is a trillionth of a billionth of a second, or a decimal point followed by 20 zeros and 1.
Previously, researchers dived into the world of zeptoseconds. In 2016, researchers wrote in the journal Nature Physics Lasers are used to measure time in increments of up to 850 zeptoseconds.
This accuracy is a huge leap from the 1999 Nobel Prize-winning work that first measured time in femtoseconds, which is a millionth of a billionth of seconds.
It takes a fraction of the zeptoseconds to break and form chemical bonds, but it takes light to travel through a single hydrogen molecule (H2).
To measure this very short journey, physicist Reinhard Dorner and colleagues from Goethe University in Germany photographed X ray From PETRA III at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), a particle accelerator in Hamburg.
The researchers set the X-ray energy so that a single photon, or a particle of light, ejects the two electrons from the hydrogen molecule. (A hydrogen molecule consists of two protons and two electrons.) The photon bounced off one electron from the molecule, then the other, like a pebble bouncing over the top of a pond.
These interactions created a wave pattern called an interference pattern, which Dorner and colleagues can measure with an instrument called a cold target momentum interaction spectroscopy (COLTRIMS). This instrument is basically a very sensitive particle detector that can record very fast atomic and molecular interactions.
COLTRIMS microscopy recorded both the interference pattern and the position of the hydrogen molecule during the reaction.
“Since we knew the spatial orientation of Hydrogen molecule, We used the interference of two electron waves to accurately calculate when the photon reached the first wave and when it reached the second hydrogen atom, ”Sven Grundmann, co-author of the study at the University of Rostock in Germany, He said in a statement.
this time? Two hundred forty-seven zeptoseconds, with some room for maneuver depending on the distance between the hydrogen atoms inside the molecule at the exact moment of the winged photon. Measurement is basically capturing the speed of light inside a molecule.
Image: A particle of light, called a photon (yellow arrow), that produces electron waves from an electron cloud (gray) of a hydrogen molecule (red: nucleus). The result of these interactions is what is called an interference pattern (white-violet). The interference pattern is tilted slightly to the right, allowing researchers to calculate the time of the photon’s transition from one atom to another.
“We have observed for the first time that the electron shell in the molecule does not interact with light everywhere at the same time,” Dorner said in the statement. “The time delay occurs because the information inside the molecule is only propagated at the speed of light.”
Results are detailed Oct.16 in the journal Science.