A team of researchers has achieved a new milestone after it managed to measure the time needed by a light particle to go through a hydrogen particle. The light particle requires 247 zeptoseconds.
Zeptoseconds are incredibly short, with one zeptosecond being equal to the trillionth of a billionth of a second. Other researchers have explored zeptoseconds in the past, with an older study noting that a team managed to measure time in segments of 850 zeptoseconds, a feat achieved with the help of lasers.
More than two decades ago, a team of researchers received the Nobel Prize after it measured time using femtoseconds, with one femtosecond being equal to the millionth of a billionth of a second. Chemical bonds appear and disappear in femtoseconds, while the light is considerably faster and can traverse a medium in zeptoseconds.
The team of researchers used harnessed the potential of DESY, a particle accelerator located in Hamburg, Germany. X-rays were released at an intensity that allowed them to push two electrons from the inside of a hydrogen molecule, facilitating the appearance of a pattern.
Emerging patterns were measured with a tool known as COLTRIMS (Cold Target Recoil Ion Momentum Spectroscopy). This specialized tool excels at the task of detecting ultra-fast movements at a molecular or atomic level. Since the two electrons were pushed out at the same time, the team could measure when the photon reached the required targets.
The results were impressive, reaching 247 femtoseconds, but it can vary slightly in accordance with the distance between the hydrogen atoms found in the molecule when the photon traversed it. As such, the team managed to measure the speed of light within a molecule, which is a new milestone.
Many scientists have been impressed by the results, and the study has been published in a scientific journal.