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Ultrafast Light and Electrons: Imaging the Invisible

Zewail, Ahmed H. (2016) Ultrafast Light and Electrons: Imaging the Invisible. In: Optics in Our Time. Springer , New York, NY, pp. 43-68. ISBN 978-3-319-31902-5.

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In this chapter, the evolutionary and revolutionary developments of microscopic imaging are overviewed with focus on ultrashort light and electrons pulses; for simplicity, we shall use the term “ultrafast” for both. From Alhazen’s camera obscura, to Hooke and van Leeuwenhoek’s optical micrography, and on to three- and four-dimensional (4D) electron microscopy, the developments over a millennium have transformed humans’ scope of visualization. The changes in the length and time scales involved are unimaginable, beginning with the visible shadows of candles at the centimeter and second scales, and ending with invisible atoms with space and time dimensions of sub-nanometer and femtosecond, respectively. With these advances it has become possible to determine the structures of matter and to observe their elementary dynamics as they fold and unfold in real time, providing the means for visualizing materials behavior and biological function, with the aim of understanding emergent phenomena in complex systems. Both light and light-generated electrons are now at the forefront of femtosecond and attosecond science and technology, and the scope of applications has reached beyond the nuclear motion as electron dynamics become accessible.

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Additional Information:© 2016 The Author(s). Open Access This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, duplication, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, a link is provided to the Creative Commons license and any changes made are indicated. Date: 14 December 2016. The research summarized in this contribution had been carried out with support from the National Science Foundation (DMR-0964886) and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (FA9550-11-1-0055) in the Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology (UST), which is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation at Caltech. During the forty-years-long research endeavor at Caltech, I had the pleasure of working with some 400 research associates, and without their efforts the above story would not have been told. References are included here to highlight selected contributions, but the work in its totality could not be covered because of the limited space and the article focus.
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Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)FA9550-11-1-0055
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
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ID Code:78241
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:15 Jun 2017 16:55
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:06

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