Fast-moving processes in the microcosm: From curiosity to fighting cancer

11. August 2021 | by Prof. Ferenc Krausz

How incredibly short are attoseconds? And how can such ultrashort laser pulses enable innovative approaches, both now in the field of basic research and in the future in practical applications in the field of medical diagnostics? Prof. Ferenc Krausz, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Chair of Experimental Physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, explores these questions in his online lecture, which can be viewed here, given on the occasion of the anniversary event "10 Years PhotonLab" on July 23, 2021.

We are all

familiar with them from sports competitions in which speed is at stake: the

measurements of hundredths and thousandths of a second. Attoseconds, derived

from the Danish word "atten", which corresponds to the number

"eighteen", are a completely different matter with their time

interval of 10-18 seconds. An attosecond is thus the billionth of a

billionth of a second. That can be imagined hardly more, because in the range

of the attoseconds the duration of a second corresponds to the age of our


What is

used in basic physics research to detect the electron movements within an atom

that are not fixed on orbits with attosecond laser light pulses could in the

future lead to the generation of a so-called individual "molecular

fingerprint" of a person from blood samples in an innovative analysis

procedure by means of this laser-based technology in practical applications. By

comparing possible changes in the blood samples examined over time, it is hoped

that an early diagnostic procedure could soon be designed that could detect

even minimal changes in the molecular structure. This would make it possible to

initiate therapeutic approaches at the earliest possible stage, even before the

disease becomes symptomatic. Prof. Ferenc Krausz explains how this can work in

a clear and generally understandable way in his lecture in German, which can be

accessed here.