What is a Picosecond, and What Does It Have to Do with Lasers?

Milliseconds, nanoseconds, picoseconds…what does it all mean?

In the laser industry, the impact of our products is big, but the measurements we use are very small. It can be difficult to even conceptually understand how quickly these lasers work. When you were in school, you might have been taught to count a second by chanting, “One one thousand, two one thousand…” or even “one Mississippi, two Mississippi…” A second may seem like it goes by in a flash, but in the world of lasers, it is practically an eternity!

That’s because we often deal in picoseconds. What exactly is a picosecond? It is one trillionth of a second. To make it look cleaner, scientists and researchers usually write a picosecond like this: 10-12. Another way of writing that is 0.000000000001 of a second.

That’s fast! When we write that our Supercontinuum Source has a turn-key picosecond light source, we mean that our lasers are so fast as to be nearly instantaneous!