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Researchers Produce Fastest Light Pulse in the World

The fastest light pulse that is believed to be developed for the very first time has been generated by Researchers at the University of Central Florida.

Professor Zenhgu Chang, University of Central Florida trustee chair and Professor in the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers, College of Optics and Photonics, and Department of Physics, and his team have generated what is being deemed the fastest light pulse ever developed. The team's work was funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Army Research Office. CREDIT: U.S. Army Research Laboratory

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Army Research Office funded the 53-attosecond pulse, obtained by Professor Zenhgu Chang, UCF trustee chair and Professor in the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers, College of Optics and Photonics, and Department of Physics, and his group at the University.

In particular, it was funded by ARO's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative titled "Post-Born-Oppenheimer Dynamics Using Isolated Attosecond Pulses," headed by ARO's Jim Parker and Rich Hammond.

This indeed beats the team's record of a 67-attosecond extreme ultraviolet light pulse set in 2012.

Attosecond light pulses enable Scientists to capture images of fast-moving electrons in molecules and atoms with unparalleled sharpness, bringing about improvements in logic and memory chips for computers and mobile phones, solar panel technology and in the military in terms of increasing the speed of sensors and electronics, and also threat identification.

This is the shortest laser pulse ever produced. It opens new doors in spectroscopy, allowing the identification of pernicious substances and explosive residue.

Rich Hammond, Head of  "Post-Born-Oppenheimer Dynamics Using Isolated Attosecond Pulses"

Hammond pointed out that this achievement is also a new and extremely effective tool that will help understand the dynamics of molecules and atoms, allowing observations of how molecules form and how electrons behave in molecules and atoms.

"This can also be extended to condensed matter systems, allowing unprecedented accuracy and detail of atomic, molecular, and even phase, changes," Hammond said. "This sets the stage for many new kinds of experiments, and pushes physics forward with the ability to understand matter better than ever before."

Chang echoed Hammond's sentiments about this accomplishment being a game-changer for constant research in this field.

"The photon energy of the attosecond X-ray pulses is two times higher than previous attosecond light sources and reached the carbon K-edge (284 eV), which makes it possible to probe and control core electron dynamics such as Auger processes," Chang said.

In condensed matter physics, the ultrafast electronic process in carbon containing materials, such as graphene and diamond, can be studied via core to valence transitions. In chemistry, electron dynamics in carbon containing molecules, such as carbon dioxide, Acetylene, Methane, etc., may now be studied by attosecond transient absorption, taking advantage of the element specificity.

Professor Zenhgu Chang, Professor in the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers, College of Optics and Photonics, and Department of Physics

This development refers to the culmination of years of ARO funding of attosecond science.

It all began with an ARO MURI about eight years ago titled "Attosecond Optical Technology Based on Recollision and Gating" from the Physics Division. This was then followed by single investigator awards, Defense University Research Instrumentation Programs and lastly an ARO MURI titled "Attosecond Electron Dynamics" from the Chemistry Division.

From the ARL/ARO perspective, Hammond stated that this achievement, which involved Researchers from all over the world, demonstrates how constant funding into fundamental research using several instruments, such as DURIPS, MURIs, and single investigator awards, can be employed in a meaningful and coherent manner in order to push forward the frontiers of science.

Chang's team is made up of Jie Li, Xiaoming Ren, Yanchun Yin, Andrew Chew, Yan Cheng, Eric Cunningham, Yang Wang, Shuyuan Hu, and Yi Wu, who are all affiliated with the Institute for the Frontier of Attosecond Science and Technology, or iFAST; Kun Zhao, who is also affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Michael Chini with the UCF Department of Physics.

Besides ARO, this research was supported by grants via the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency PULSE program and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and is grounded on work supported by the National Science Foundation.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, presently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. It aims at providing innovative research, engineering and development in order to produce capabilities that provide significant overmatch to the Army against the complications of the existing and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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