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An attosecond is 1×10−18 of a second (one quintillionth of a second).[1] For context, an attosecond is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 billion years.[2][3]

The word "attosecond" is formed by the prefix atto and the unit second. Atto- was made from the Danish word for eighteen (atten).[4] Its symbol is as.

An attosecond is equal to 1000 zeptoseconds, or 11000 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:

Times which can be expressed in attoseconds:

  • 1 attosecond: the time it takes for light to travel the length of two hydrogen atoms
  • 12 attoseconds: record for shortest time interval measured as of 12 May 2010[5]
  • 24 attoseconds: the atomic unit of time
  • 53 attoseconds: the shortest pulses of laser light yet created [6]
  • 67 attoseconds: the second shortest pulses of laser light created[7]
  • 100 attoseconds: fastest ever view of molecular motion[8][9]
  • 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.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "attosecond". Memidex/WordNet Dictionary/Thesaurus. Retrieved 2011-04-14. 
  2. ^ Electron Motion Filmed, 28 Feb. 2008
  3. ^ Exploring "Attosecond" Time. Visualising an Attosecond... How short is an attosecond?
  4. ^ atto- [A toh] (Danish or Norwegian: eighteen; a decimal prefix used in the international metric system for measurements). (2007-04-05). Retrieved on 2011-01-23.
  5. ^ "12 attoseconds is the world record for shortest controllable time". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. 
  6. ^ [1]Researchers set record for fastest light pulse
  7. ^ Watching Quantum Mechanics in Action: Researchers Create World Record Laser Pulse – 4 September 2012 – ScienceDaily. Retrieved on 2012-09-04.
  8. ^ "Fastest view of molecular motion". BBC. 2006. 
  9. ^ Baker, S.; Robinson, J. S.; et al. (2 March 2006). "Probing Proton Dynamics in Molecules on an Attosecond Time Scale". Science. 312 (5772): 424–427. PMID 16513942. doi:10.1126/science.1123904. 
  10. ^ Merali, Zeeya (20 July 2005). "Electron timed hopping between atoms". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 2016-05-11. 
  11. ^ Föhlisch, A.; Feulner, P.; et al. (21 July 2005). "Direct observation of electron dynamics in the attosecond domain". Nature. 436 (7049): 373–376. doi:10.1038/nature03833.