The 2023 Nobel Prize in physics recognized three researchers for their work with attosecond light pulses, revolutionizing the study of rapid electron movements and broadening understanding in various fields of physics and chemistry.
A group of three researchers earned the 2023 Nobel Prize in physics for work that has revolutionized how scientists study the electron – by illuminating molecules with attosecond-long flashes of light. But how long is an attosecond, and what can these infinitesimally short pulses tell researchers about the nature of matter?
I first learned of this area of research as a graduate student in physical chemistry. My doctoral adviser’s group had a project dedicated to studying chemical reactions with attosecond pulses. Before understanding why attosecond research resulted in the most prestigious award in the sciences, it helps to understand what an attosecond pulse of light is.
How Long Is an Attosecond?
“Atto” is the scientific notation prefix that represents 10-18, which is a decimal point followed by 17 zeroes and a 1. So a flash of light lasting an attosecond, or 0.000000000000000001 of a second, is an extremely short pulse of light.
In fact, there are approximately as many attoseconds in one second as there are seconds in the age of the universe.
- Breaking the Atom’s Secrets: Physicists Discover Molecular Structure of Nuclear Ground State
- Sequential “Melting” of Upsilons: New Insight Into the Hottest Matter on Earth
- Building a Computer With a Single Atom
- The Future of Error Correction: Taking Advantage of Quantum Scrambling
- Can You Trust Your Quantum Simulator? MIT Physicists Report a New Quantum Phenomenon
- Laboratory for Laser Energetics to Lead New Inertial Fusion Energy Research Hub
- Sunlight to Survival: Pioneering Solar Technology Transforms Air Into Water
- Light’s Twilight Zone: The Paradoxical Dimming of Ultrafast X-Ray Images
- New Research: Energy Production Is Powered by More Than Just Physics
- Stretching the Limits: How Diamond Manipulation Enhances Quantum Bits
- Lost in Space: Is a Giant Void Driving the Universe Apart?
- Hidden Depths: Uncovering Theia’s Mysterious Remnants Inside Earth
- Earthrise Revealed: Unearthing the True Story Behind the “Image of the Century”
- Viral Vampires: How Predatory Viruses Unlock Secrets to New Antiviral Treatments
- Beyond Delicious: Unlocking the Nutritional Power of Thanksgiving Sides