Imaging at the size and speed of electrons

Attosecond science lies far beyond the boundaries of human experience. As a unit of time, one attosecond is to a second as a second is to the age of the entire universe. These scales not only lie outside our own capabilities, they stretch engineering to its very limits. And yet these are the speeds at which electrons move. From artificial photosynthesis to optical computing, the growing need to understand electrical and chemical processes as they happen demands imaging techniques that can work at attosecond scale.

Imperial College is pioneering the use of extremely short, precisely timed laser pulses with controlled field waveforms and the generation of attosecond laser pulses in the soft x-ray range that can snap electrons in action, breaking records in the process. The approach promises new ways to engineer faster electronics, better understanding of complex chemical processes in medicine and may even challenge basic assumptions about the fundamental behaviours of atoms and molecules.

"One attosecond is to a second like a second is to the age of the universe. These are the fastest man-made events in history."Tobias Witting


Dr Tobias Witting is a Research Associate in the internationally-recognized Quantum Optics and Laser Science (QOLS) group in the Department of Physics at Imperial College London. Prior to joining Imperial, Tobias completed a doctorate in the Atomic and Laser Physics Department at Oxford University with a Marie Curie Fellowship, after completing his Diplom-Physiker degree at the university of M√ľnster, Germany.


Tobias's work focuses on attosecond science and the enabling laser technology.

  • Near single cycle high energy laser pulse generation;
  • Ultrafast laser pulse metrology;
  • High harmonic generation (HHG) and attosecond laser pulse generation;
  • Attosecond metrology.

Attosecond science aims to look at dynamics of electrons in real time in order to unlock progress towards:

  • Artificial photosynthesis;
  • Future optical computers.

Foresight and futures work

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016
See further: The future of imaging with Imperial College London

Profile Credits

Kit Huckvale