Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from David Appell

Electron Transfer Time

This is a bit sciency to include here, but it still astounds me: they’ve actually measured the time it takes an electron to transfer from one atom to another. 320 attoseconds, or 3.2 x 10^-16 seconds. Or 0.32 femtoseconds. I’m…

  • July 22, 2005

This is a bit sciency to include here, but it still astounds me: they’ve actually measured the time it takes an electron to transfer from one atom to another. 320 attoseconds, or 3.2 x 10^-16 seconds. Or 0.32 femtoseconds. I’m surprised, because it’s faster than processes which take place on the nuclear scale, which are about one femtosecond.

This measurement depends on the rate of hole decay, or the “natural lifetime” of the hole, which is known to take 500 attoseconds. I don’t know how they measure that–at some point there has to be an absolute measurement here. But it’s still astonishing. The glories of science!

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.