Tracking electrons with attosecond lasers

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Physicist Giuseppe Sansone uses ultrashort light pulses to investigate how electrons move in molecules.

The electrons in atoms and molecules move incredibly fast. Put simply, an electron in a hydrogen atom orbits the nucleus of an atom once in around 152 attoseconds. By comparison, a million trillion attoseconds pass in one second. Physicists use special lasers to track the rapid movements of electrons. These emit light pulses that are only a few attoseconds long. The images taken with such lasers can then be used to compile films of the electron paths, just like a flip book.

Giuseppe Sansone’s research group at the University of Freiburg uses this technique to better understand chemical reactions. In this video, Sansone and postdoctoral researcher Dr Dominik Ertel provide a peek into their lab and explain what they hope to gain from their research over the long run.