Nov 13, 2016

Smallest sliver of time yet measured sees electrons fleeing atom

Posted by in category: particle physics

A new time is upon us.

By Rebecca Boyle.

It’s like catching light in action. For the first time, physicists have measured changes in an atom to the level of zeptoseconds, or trillionths of a billionth of a second – the smallest division of time yet observed.

In this case, the speed demon was an electron escaping the bonds of its parent atom. When light strikes electrons, they get excited and can break free from their atoms. The photon’s energy is either entirely consumed by one electron or divided among several. This electron ejection is known as the photoelectric effect, and was described by Albert Einstein in 1905.

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