STOCKHOLM — Three scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking research on electrons and their movements. The laureates – Anne L’Huillier, Pierre Agostini, and Ferenc Krausz – provided humanity with its first glimpse into the incredibly fast-paced world of spinning electrons. This discovery has the potential to revolutionize various fields, from electronics to disease diagnostics.
The scientists employed ultra-quick laser pulses to observe the behavior of electrons, allowing them to capture their movements within a quintillionth of a second, also known as an attosecond. To put it into perspective, Nobel Committee chair Eva Olsson compared it to dividing one second, which is the time of a heartbeat, by 1,000 six times. This breakthrough has opened up new avenues of research and knowledge in the scientific community.
L’Huillier, a French-Swedish physicist from Lund University, has become the fifth woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics. In her response to winning the award, she encouraged other women interested in the field to pursue their passions. “For all the women, I say if you are interested, if you have a little bit of passion for this type of challenges, so just go for it,” L’Huillier said.
Electrons play a fundamental role in various aspects of our lives, including chemistry, physics, and our biological functions. They are responsible for binding atoms together and facilitating chemical reactions. L’Huillier emphasized the importance of understanding electron movement in order to comprehend their functions fully.
While this research currently focuses on gaining a better understanding of the universe, scientists are hopeful that it will eventually have practical applications. This could include advancements in electronics, disease diagnosis, and basic chemistry. L’Huillier stressed the significance of pursuing fundamental science regardless of its immediate real-world applications.
The laureates reacted differently to the news of their Nobel Prize. L’Huillier was teaching a class when she received the call, but didn’t answer it initially. She finished her lecture before addressing the news conference announcing the award. Agostini, an emeritus professor at Ohio State University, was unable to be reached before the official announcement. Krausz, from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, expressed his disbelief upon receiving the call and said he thought he was dreaming.
The Nobel Prize in Physics comes just one day after two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
The Nobel Prizes are accompanied by a cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor ($1 million) from the bequest left by its creator, Alfred Nobel.