Physicists in Germany measured the shortest timespan ever recorded. The team measured the time, it takes for a photon of light-to-travel the length of a hydrogen molecule and located it to occur in only trillionths of a billionth of a second.
The microscopic world holds many mysteries, not simply because everything is so tiny and it all happens incredibly fast. At this scale, one second can appear to be an eternity – chemical bonds form and break in femtoseconds, which are quadrillionths of a second.
But the new measurement zooms in much further, making a femtosecond seem slow as compared . The researchers have found that a photon will cross a hydrogen-molecule in around 247 zeptoseconds.
For reference, a zeptosecond is 1,000 times smaller than a femtosecond, or 1 sextillionth of a second. That means 0.0000000000000000000001 sec.
There are an equivalent number of zeptoseconds in one second as there are seconds in 31.7 trillion years, which is 2,365 times longer than the universe even existed. There’s just no method to overstate how short a zeptosecond is.
This groundbreaking measurement made by researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt, DESY accelerator & Fritz-Haber Institute. It’s not actually the earliest measurement made on the zeptosecond scale – that honor belongs to a team in 2016 that found that after a helium atom is struck by a photon it takes about 850 zeptoseconds to eject an electron. It means that the new measurement is approximately 3.4 times shorter than the previous record.
The new experiment was almost similar. The team irradiated a hydrogen (H2) molecule with X-rays at a specific energy level that sent both electrons flying out of the molecule. By measuring the interference patterns of the 2 electrons, the researchers were ready to precisely calculate how long it took the photon to approach the first hydrogen atom , then the second, within the molecule. The solution turn out upto 247 zeptoseconds.
“We observed for the first time that the electron shell in a molecule doesn’t react to light everywhere at an equivalent time,” says Reinhard Dörner, lead author of the study. “The time delay occurs due to the information in the molecule only spreads at the speed of light.”