A research team has created the world's shortest laser pulse and in the process may have given scientists a new tool to watch quantum mechanics in action -- something that has been hidden from view until now.
UCF Professor Zenghu Chang from the Department of Physics and the College of Optics and Photonics, led the effort that generated a 67-attosecond pulse of extreme ultraviolet light. An attosecond is an incomprehensible quintillionth of a second. In other words it would take 15 million billion pulses of the size Chang's team achieved to equal one second. The accomplishment is even more remarkable because the team did it without the use of specialized equipment including a mile-long particle accelerator or a Superdome-sized synchrotron. Dr. Chang's success in making ever-shorter light pulses helps open a new door to a previously hidden world, where we can watch electrons move in atoms and molecules, and follow chemical reactions as they take place.
In 2001, attosecond pulses were demonstrated for the first time. Since then scientists around the world have been trying to make ever-shorter pulse durations because of the door they could open to understanding the subatomic world. The previous record of an 80-attosecond pulse was set in 2008 at the Max Planck Institute in Garching, Germany. This is the first time an American-led team has set the record.