Fastest camera may film atomic motion

March 13, 2013 at 9:09 PM
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LONDON, March 13 (UPI) -- British researchers say they are working on a movie camera so fast it will be able to record processes taking place inside atoms and molecules.

Scientists at the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council said they're working to develop an X-ray camera that will create the shortest pulses ever made, TG Daily reported Wednesday.

The researchers said their goal is to be able to generate X-ray laser pulses shorter than 1 attosecond -- a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. Currently, the best that's ever been achieved is 67 attoseconds.

"Such pulses will be important for observing and influencing processes within molecules, atoms and nuclei which occur at progressively smaller sizes and faster time scales," researcher David Dunning said.

The scientists say they eventually hope to create film records at resolution down to the atomic level, as opposed to current technology that can only "freeze-frame" a single image of electrons within atoms.

The 1-attosecond timing will not be easy to achieve, they acknowledged.

"Such short timescales are difficult to conceive. To put them into context, stretching out one attosecond to one second is the equivalent to stretching out one second to 30 billion years -- or more than twice the age of the universe."

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