It has achieved a goal long sought by physicists: the ability to “freeze” the image of the movement of electrons in matter in order to study the image in detail. With this capability, it will be possible to do experiments that could help confirm theories about the movement of electrons and provide crucial data on how and why chemical reactions occur.
The new method developed by a team of experts from France and Canada will study the actions of very fast electrons, using this isolated light pulses with durations very precise and incredibly fast.
Electronic exchange during chemical reactions usually occurs on time scales less than a femtosecond, or one millionth of a billionth of a second. The only way to freeze a moving image is an electron using light pulses with durations shorter than even the rapid comings and goings of the electrons, i.e., the order of attoseconds. An attosecond is 0.000000000000000001 seconds. To get an idea of how small this number we can say that an attosecond would be with respect to a second something very different from what the latter would be over the age of the universe (about 14,000 million years).
For some time there are technical means to create attosecond pulse duration. These means are based on the interaction of laser beams ultrapowerful with matter. However, the resulting light bursts occur in “trains” (sets of pulses closely spaced in time) are not well suited to many types of experiments needs to be done in order to study in detail the actions of the electrons.
Isolated pulses and accurate time would be much more appropriate. That’s exactly what Fabien Quéré and Vincenti Henri from the Atomic Energy Commission (now Atomic Energy Commission and Energy Alternatives) of France, along with colleagues at the Laboratory of Applied Optics, in France, and the National Research Council Canada, created using a new method, which has been called “Lighthouse Effect attosecond.” The new technique has been presented by the Optical Society of America (OSA), an organization founded in America in 1916, based in Washington, DC, bringing together some 17,000 scientists, engineers and other professionals in the optical and photonics from over 100 nations. There are approximately 52 percent of the members of this society are outside the United States.