An international research team led by Griffith University physicists has solved a lingering mysteries plaguing scientists since the advent of quantum physics – measuring the time it takes for a particle to tunnel through a barrier.
In quantum physics, “tunneling” is when a particle that encounters a seemingly insurmountable barrier passes through it, ending up on the other side.
In a first, experiments conducted by the Griffith research team using ultra short pulses of light and atomic hydrogen in the University’s unique laser facility have definitively determined the tunneling delay, which is also the time it takes for an electron to get out or ionise from a hydrogen atom.
The article ‘Attosecond angular streaking and tunneling time in atomic hydrogen’ has been published in Nature with the project also nominated for a 2019 Eureka Science Research Award.
The three-year project was led by Griffith physicists and PhDs alongside a team of international theoretical physicists, with tests carried out at the Australian Attosecond Science Facility at Griffith’s Nathan campus.
Lead researchers Associate Professor Igor Litvinyuk and Professor Robert Sang from the Centre for Quantum Dynamics say the study answers an age old question that “even textbooks treat as a problem to solve”.