Femtochemistry conference kicks off in Hamburg

13 July, 2015

Nobel laureate and femto pioneer Ahmed Zewail holds public scientific lecture — about 400 attendees.
At the 12th International Conference on Femtochemistry FEMTO12 — organizes by the CFEL Controlled Molecule Imaging Group — world leading experts gather at DESY in Hamburg this week. Femtochemistry deals with the ultrafast chemical interactions between molecules and atoms and is of fundamental importance for a broad spectrum of questions in many disciplines, from basic physics to biology and materials science.

X-ray diffractive imaging snapshot of aligned molecules. Credit: Stephan Stern/CFEL-CMI

Nearly 250 participants from all over the globe will discuss the latest developments and advances at the conference that was opened by Hamburgs Senator for Science and Second Mayor, Katharina Fegebank, the Vice President of the University of Hamburg, Prof. Claudia Leopold, and the Chair of DESY's board of directors, Prof. Helmut Dosch. Femtochemistry pioneer and Nobel laureate Prof. Ahmed Zewail from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) will hold a public scientific lecture entitled “Light and Enlightenment” on Monday evening (free admission).

This year's edition of the biennial conference is hosted by the Hamburg Center for Ultrafast Imaging (CUI), DESY, and the Center for Free-Electron Science (CFEL) and takes place within the framework of UNESCO's International Year of Light. Highlights include the recording of molecular movies of chemistry in action, laser-controlled molecular dynamics, electron and energy transport for solar energy harvesting, and ultrafast processes in biochemical and biological systems. Such chemical processes typically take place on the time scale of femtoseconds, or quadrillionths of a second. “Femtochemistry is relevant for all scientists studying the behaviour and interactions of molecules and atoms, in chemistry, biology, physics, medicine, materials sciences, or other disciplines,” explains organiser and chair of the conference, Prof. Jochen Küpper from DESY, who works at CFEL and CUI and is a professor of physics at the University of Hamburg.

Femtochemistry uses different tools that are mostly based on light. With its soft X-ray laser FLASH, DESY runs a super slow-motion camera for the nanocosm. Scientists at DESY also develop next generation laser light sources for ultra-short pulses in the attosecond regime. An attosecond is a thousandth of a femtosecond. Starting 2017, the European X-ray laser European XFEL, which DESY and ten international partners are currently building in the Hamburg metropolitan area, will offer scientists previously inaccessible views into the ultrafast dynamics of molecules and atoms.

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