A picosecond is an SI unit of time equal to 10−12 or 1/1,000,000,000,000 (one trillionth) of a second. That is one trillionth, or one millionth of one millionth of a second, or 0.000 000 000 001 seconds. A picosecond is to one second as one second is to approximately 31,689 years. Multiple technical approaches achieve imaging within single-digit picoseconds: for example, the streak camera or intensified CCD (ICCD) cameras are able to picture the motion of light.
One picosecond is equal to 1000 femtoseconds, or 1/1000 nanoseconds. Because the next SI unit is 1000 times larger, measurements of 10−11 and 10−10 second are typically expressed as tens or hundreds of picoseconds. Some notable measurements in this range include:
- 1.0 picoseconds (1.0 ps) – cycle time for electromagnetic frequency 1 terahertz (THz) (1 x 1012 hertz), an inverse unit. This corresponds to a wavelength of 0.3 mm, as can be calculated by multiplying 1 ps by the speed of light (approximately 3 x 108 m/s) to determine the distance traveled. 1 THz is in the far infrared.
- 1 picosecond – time taken by light in a vacuum to travel approximately 0.30 mm
- 1 picosecond – half-life of a bottom quark
- ~1 picosecond – lifetime of a single H
(hydronium) ion in water at 20 °C
- picoseconds to nanoseconds – phenomena observable by dielectric spectroscopy
- 1.2 picoseconds – switching time of the world's fastest transistor (845 GHz, as of 2006)
- 1.7 picoseconds - rotational correlation time of water
- 3.3 picoseconds (approximately) – time taken for light to travel 1 millimeter
- 10 picoseconds after the Big Bang – electromagnetism separates from the other fundamental forces
- 10–150 picoseconds – rotational correlation times of a molecule (184 g/mol) from hot to frozen water
- 108.7827757 picoseconds – transition time between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom at absolute zero
- 330 picoseconds (approximately) – the time it takes a common 3.0 GHz computer CPU to complete a processing cycle
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