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X-ray imaging on the attosecond timescale

(Nanowerk News) In the blink of an eye, more attoseconds have expired than the age of Earth measured in minutes. A lot more. To be precise, an attosecond is one billionth of a billionth of a second. The attosecond timescale is where you must go to study the electron action that is the starting point of all of chemistry. Not surprisingly, chemists are most eager to explore it with X-rays, the region of the electromagnetic spectrum that can probe the core electrons of atoms, the electrons that uniquely identify atomic species.
Heralded as the science of the 21st century by Science and The Economist, attosecond science is a new frontier of molecular and material science. It is expected to catalyze novel applications in a wide range of fields such as nanotechnology and life sciences, based on the ultimate visualization and control of the quantum nature of the electron.
Ali Belkacem, a chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has been using powerful laboratory-scale lasers to test whether multidimensional nonlinear x-ray spectroscopy on the attosecond timescale is practical for the light sources of the future and just what co