An international team of researchers has been able to control and monitor the course of electrons emitted by an atom in real time. The scientists used the FERMI free electron laser in Italy to achieve this task, which took just a few attoseconds, or a billionth of a billionth of a second.
The fact we can regulate these electrons is pretty awesome, and it means we can observe and control the movement of electrons amid two elements in a chemical compound. But what’s even more awesome is that we can now study how electrons move in ultrafast procedures - for instance photosynthesis and combustion - that we haven’t been able to examine in real-time before.
Lead researcher Kevin Prince, said "The next step will be to apply the technique we have demonstrated to the study of more complex processes which occur on the attosecond scale such as catalytic processes and atmospheric chemistry,"
Unlike ordinary lasers, which shoot rays of photons, the FERMI free electron laser contains high-speed electrons moving through a magnetic structure. It’s also adjustable, letting researchers to change frequency range from microwaves through to X-ray and infrared.
By means of this technology, they created two electron beams at different wavelengths. The short wavelengths were able to control the electrons movement, altering their course. This control was only upheld for a minute amount of time - a few attoseconds - but even knowing that it occurred is remarkably cool.
Prince said "Atoms in a molecule move on the scale of femtoseconds - a few millionths of a billionth of a second. But electrons, which are the basis of chemical bonds, are much faster and in the processes they cause, they move a thousand times faster - on the scale of tens or hundreds of attoseconds."
The study was a teamwork amid the Swinburne team and scientists in Italy, Japan, Russia, the US, and Germany.
The experiment, distributed in Nature Photonics, generates a thrilling example for the future. Being able to measure electrons in attoseconds will let scientists to move onto investigating real-life procedures that happen ultrafast - something that we haven’t been able to do ever before.