An attosecond is an SI unit of time equal to 10−18 of a second (one quintillionth of a second). For context, an attosecond is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 billion years, or more than twice the age of the universe.
An attosecond is equal to 1000 zeptoseconds, or 1⁄1000 of a femtosecond. Because the next higher SI unit for time is the femtosecond (10−15 seconds), durations of 10−17 s and 10−16 s will typically be expressed as tens or hundreds of attoseconds:
- 1 attosecond: the time it takes for light to travel the length of three hydrogen atoms
- 12 attoseconds: record for shortest time interval measured as of 12 May 2010
- 24 attoseconds: the atomic unit of time
- 67 attoseconds: the shortest pulses of laser light yet created
- 100 attoseconds: fastest ever view of molecular motion
- 200 attoseconds (approximately): half-life of beryllium-8, maximum time available for the triple-alpha process for the synthesis of carbon and heavier elements in stars
- 320 attoseconds: estimated time it takes electrons to transfer between atoms
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