Researchers set record for fastest light pulse

August 7, 2017, University of Central Florida
University of Central Florida Professor Zenghu Chang broke the record for the fastest light pulse. Credit: University of Central Florida

A research team at the University of Central Florida has demonstrated the fastest light pulse ever developed, a 53-attosecond X-ray flash.

The group led by Professor Zenghu Chang beat its own record set in 2012: a 67-attosecond extreme ultraviolet light that was the fastest at the time.

At one-quintillionth of a second, an attosecond is unimaginably fast. In 53 attoseconds, light travels less than one-thousandth of the diameter of a human hair.

In the same way high-speed cameras can record slow-motion video of flying bullets, attosecond light pulses allow scientists to capture images of fast-moving electrons in and molecules with unprecedented sharpness.

As reported Aug. 4 in Nature Communications, the pulses Chang has now demonstrated are not just shorter in duration, but also in wavelength. The new light reaches an important spectral region, the so called "water window," where absorb strongly but water does not.

"Such attosecond soft X-rays could be used to shoot slow-motion video of electrons and atoms of biological molecules in living cells to, for instance, improve the efficiency of solar panels by better understanding how photosynthesis works," said Chang, a UCF Trustee Chair Professor in CREOL, The College of Optics & Photonics, and the Department of Physics. Chang is the director of the Institute for the Frontiers of Attosecond Science and Technology (iFAST), located in the Physics Department, where the experiments were carried out.

X-rays interact with the tightly bound electrons in matter and may reveal which electrons move in which atoms, providing another way to study fast processes in materials with chemical element specificity. That capability is invaluable for the development of next-generation logic and memory chips for mobile phones and computers that are a thousand times faster than those in use today.

Producing X-rays requires a new type of high power driver: femtosecond lasers with a long wavelength. It's an approach that Chang and his team have pioneered.

Explore further: 67-attosecond extreme ultraviolet laser pulse is the world's shortest

More information: Jie Li et al, 53-attosecond X-ray pulses reach the carbon K-edge, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00321-0

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El_Nose
4.5 / 5 (4) Aug 07, 2017
briefest light pulse not fastest -

When you know the title is click-bait but you need to know what the real story was.

I was curious what this article was about, I knew it would not be about faster light, and was pleasantly surprised that it was about duration.

CubicAdjunct747
not rated yet Aug 07, 2017
perhaps we can open up attosecond laser drilling/machining? Femtosecond is great, but what capabilities may be in attosecond regime? Even less heat, and perhaps removal of a few atomic layers at a time may be possible...
adam_russell_9615
4.3 / 5 (3) Aug 08, 2017
briefest light pulse not fastest -

When you know the title is click-bait but you need to know what the real story was.

I was curious what this article was about, I knew it would not be about faster light, and was pleasantly surprised that it was about duration.



Merriam-Webster
definition of fast:
3a : characterized by quick motion, operation, or effect: (1) : moving or able to move rapidly : swift a fast horse (2) : taking a comparatively short time a fast race (3) : imparting quickness of motion a fast bowler (4) : accomplished quickly

Maybe not the first definition, but still valid.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Aug 08, 2017
"Maybe not the first definition, but still valid."

In a colloquial sense, perhaps, but this was supposed to be a 'Physics' report. The referenced article said it better...
Da Schneib
not rated yet Aug 08, 2017
Perhaps "shortest light pulse" would be a better and less click-bait-y title.
El_Nose
not rated yet Aug 15, 2017
@adam_russel_9615

because this is a science forum i was working under the impression of the speed of light in a vacuum has a set velocity, and given a refraction index the maximum speed of light in a medium is also known. So fastest when applying to light is a bad application of the primary usage of the word, velocity. Which is why the article is clikbait

In this case the speed of light did not change -- the shutter speed changed. So no, this is not proper application of the word fast to the photons - but to the light source being turned on and off.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet Aug 15, 2017
So fastest when applying to light is a bad application of the primary usage of the word, velocity. Which is why the article is clikbait
@El_Nose
"light" was used to describe what type of "pulse" was the fastest

this is reinforced in the first two sentences in the article

also in the Title and Abstract of the linked study

it can be called clickbait as it leaves out certain qualifier information (as noted by Nick) that requires you to read to clarify
however it is technically correct

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