Daniel Porter
Sep 4, 2012

Shortest laser pulse

To study matter on increasingly smaller scales, scientists need faster light. The speed of light is constant, of course, but "faster" here refers to the duration of a laser pulse. In other words, what's the fastest you can "switch on and off" a laser. The previous record was held by a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute in Germany -- 80 attoseconds (80e-18 seconds), or 80 billionths of a billionth of a second. University of Central Florida researcher Zhenghu Chang was able to get that number down to 67 attoseconds, which will allow scientists to investigate a new range of experimental processes. "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," said Michael Johnson, the dean of the UCF College of Sciences and a physicist.