Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier have been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking work on ultra-short pulses of light. These pulses have the ability to capture the movement of electrons within atoms and molecules, a phenomenon that was previously thought to be impossible to observe.
The Royal Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize, stated that the laureates’ studies have provided humanity with new tools for exploring the behavior of electrons. Changes in electrons occur within a few tenths of an attosecond, an incredibly short unit of time that is equivalent to the number of attoseconds in one second being the same as the number of seconds since the birth of the universe.
The discoveries made by Agostini, Krausz, and L’Huillier have potential applications in various fields. In electronics, understanding and controlling how electrons behave in materials is crucial. Additionally, their findings could pave the way for new diagnostic techniques in medical science, allowing for the detection of disease markers in blood samples.
Ferenc Krausz, who was born in Hungary, compared attosecond physics to a fast-shutter camera, where the short light flashes enable a freeze-frame look at the microcosm. He explained that just as a camera captures sharp snapshots of a fast-moving object, their technique allows for the observation and reconstruction of the movement of electrons, which are the fastest-moving entities outside the atomic nucleus.
Anne L’Huillier, one of the laureates and only the fifth woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics, expressed her joy and excitement upon hearing the news. She described it as a prestigious prize and stated that she was incredibly happy to receive it.
The Nobel Prize in Physics is the second prize to be awarded this year, following the Nobel Prize in Medicine, which was awarded to Hungarian scientist Katalin Kariko and her American colleague Drew Weissman for their discoveries related to mRNA molecules and their role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Nobel Prizes, established through the will of Alfred Nobel, honor achievements in various fields and are considered the highest recognition for scientists, writers, and peace activists. The physics prize has played a prominent role in scientific breakthroughs throughout history, with notable winners including Albert Einstein. The announcements for the remaining Nobel Prizes in chemistry, literature, peace, and economics will follow.