Using pulses in the soft x-ray spectral region, scientists have demonstrated how quickly an intense laser can change the electrical properties of solids. The findings may lead to the development of optoelectronic components with faster data transmission rates or optical switches. This laser system generated ultrashort x-ray pulses used to measure changes in the electrical properties of solids. Courtesy of Rohwer et al, University of Kiel. The new technique enabled researchers from the universities of Kiel and Kaiserslautern and from the University of Colorado in Boulder to take snapshots of the electronic switching processes that occur within a fraction of a second. The images were combined in a series to deliver a film depicting the switching process with a level of detail and temporal resolution never before achieved. They recorded films of ultrafast processes in a much more comprehensive manner than had been previously possible with similar techniques. In doing so, they directly tracked phase transitions in solids or catalytic reactions on surfaces. These two still frames were recorded using the newly developed imaging method. The time interval between them is only 0.00000000000007 s. “The amount of information gained from our pictures when played back in slow motion is vast,” said Michael Bauer, professor at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Physics at Kiel. “We will get completely new insights into most relevant electronic properties of solids, which are important for a variety of current and future technologies; for example, in telecommunications.” The research appeared in Nature, March 9, 2011 (doi: 10.1038/nature09829).