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Electron filmed for the first time

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Electron movie

Using a stroboscope and laser, a team led by Swedish researcher Johan Mauritsson, assistant professor in atomic physics at Lund University, went beyond measuring the end result of an electron's interaction, they tracked and filmed its process.  

The movie of electron motion was created by a collaboration of scientists at Lund, Louisiana State University, and the Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam. Their method involved using a stroboscope and a laser that uses attosecond pulses to film electron motion. Attosecond pulses are a new technology that generate short pulses from intense laser light.  An attosecond is equal to 1/1000000000000000000th of a second (that’s 18 zeroes in the denominator).

The development must have sparked interest and debate at university physics and electrical engineering departments worldwide. Until now it has been impossible to photograph electrons, given their velocity of movement.  

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is a concept in quantum physics that makes the idea of "seeing" an electron interesting.  The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that it's impossible to know where a particle is located exactly, and how fast it is moving exactly, simultaneously.  

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That may be part of the reason why the group in Sweden needed to repeat the same interaction between an electron and an attosecond pulse several times and obtain many "snapshots." It isn't possible to watch a single electron along every step in its path. 

The research draws from concepts in atomic and molecular physics, advanced optics, nonlinear optics and laser physics. 

What are potential applications for the stroboscope and laser used to capture an electron’s collision with an atom?

 “What we are doing is pure basic research. If there happen to be future applications, they will have to be seen as a bonus,” Mauritsson said.  


J. Mauritsson, P. Johnsson, E. Mansten, et al. Coherent Electron Scattering Captured By an Attosecond Quantum Stroboscope, Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 073003

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.-She publishes, a health and science news site.

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I'll put up the Road Runner and Speedy Gonzale... by Sandy Sand on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 3:47:25 PM
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is more than ... by Josh Mitteldorf on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 3:50:47 PM
Heisenberg's principle shows that observation ... by John Sanchez Jr. on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 6:44:29 PM
Thanks for the comments. If I said the image ... by Kathlyn Stone on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 8:30:53 PM
in the advancement of imaging technology. The fact... by John Sanchez Jr. on Monday, Mar 10, 2008 at 8:39:31 AM
RE: "I asked one of the US physicists who col... by mrk * on Monday, Mar 10, 2008 at 9:27:38 PM
Are you as cynical as I read "not impossible ... by Drew Terry on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 11:03:44 PM
the world was going to hell in a hand basket, they... by James Strait on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 4:42:45 PM
film at ten angstroms.... by John Sanchez Jr. on Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008 at 8:37:02 PM
Greetings Kathlyn,Thank YOU for presenting this in... by Rama Demetrius Dyushambee, DD on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 5:00:08 PM
I am indeed interested in the books and articles y... by Kathlyn Stone on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 5:21:34 PM
 Man, what a needed relief and breath of fres... by Rick Mason on Sunday, Mar 9, 2008 at 7:01:07 PM
What fascinating possibilities that brings to mind... by Rob Kall on Monday, Mar 10, 2008 at 6:49:42 AM
nice imagery :-)... by Kathlyn Stone on Monday, Mar 10, 2008 at 10:13:39 AM
Beautiful image - regardless of the aforementioned... by Ferdinand on Monday, Mar 10, 2008 at 6:28:45 PM
I love the images, too.Thanks for pointing me towa... by Kathlyn Stone on Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008 at 9:28:01 AM
With or without the Uncertainty Principle, the ele... by Miles Mathis on Monday, Mar 17, 2008 at 2:04:30 AM