Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to three scientists for their technique to create


The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was today awarded to a trio of scientists for their technique to create pulses of light lasting just ‘attoseconds’ – one billionth of one billionth of a second. 

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier demonstrated a way to use the extremely short light pulses to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy.

The electron is one of the three subatomic particles – along with protons and neutrons – that make up atoms, the basic building blocks of all matter

Their pulses are short enough to take snapshots of electrons’ extremely rapid movements, potentially providing new insights into their behaviour. 

At the moment, this science is about understanding our universe rather than practical applications, but the hope is that it will eventually lead to better electronics and disease diagnosis. 

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier have been awarded for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier have been awarded for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics

It is common for several scientists who work in related fields to share the prize, which includes 11 million Swedish kronor (about £820,000)

It is common for several scientists who work in related fields to share the prize, which includes 11 million Swedish kronor (about £820,000)

2023 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics  

Pierre Agostini of The Ohio State University (US)

Ferenc Krausz of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Germany)

Anne L´Huillier of Lund University (Sweden) 

The Nobel Prize in Physics is one of the most prestigious prizes in science, and in the past has honoured discoveries about the fundamental forces of nature and cosmic phenomena.

It is awarded ‘for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems.’ 

It is common for several scientists who work in related fields to share the prize, which consists of 11 million Swedish kronor (about £820,000 or $990,000), a gold medal and a diploma. 

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners on Tuesday from its stunning Session Hall in Stockholm at 10:45 BST (05:45 EDT). 

It said the research has given humanity ‘new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules’. 

This year, the three recipients of the physics prize are from three different institutions in three different countries – the US, Germany and Sweden – and ot was their cumulative efforts over the past few decades that justified the prize. 

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L´Huillier have won the Nobel Prize in physics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L´Huillier have won the Nobel Prize in physics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced 

Professor Anne L’Huillier, originally from France, is only the fifth woman to win a Nobel in physics. She called the award 'very special'

Professor Anne L’Huillier, originally from France, is only the fifth woman to win a Nobel in physics. She called the award ‘very special’ 

Professor Anne L’Huillier, originally from France, is only the fifth woman to win a Nobel Prize for physics.

‘This is the most prestigious and I am so happy to get this prize. It’s incredible,’ she told the news conference announcing the prize. 

‘As you know there are not so many women who got this prize so it’s very special.’

In 1987, Professor L’Huillier discovered that many different ‘overtones’ of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas. 

Each overtone is a light wave with a given number of cycles for each cycle in the laser light. 

Overtones of light are caused by the laser light interacting with atoms in the gas; it gives some electrons extra energy that is then emitted as light. 

Since 1987, Professor L’Huillier has continued to explore this phenomenon, laying the groundwork for subsequent breakthroughs by the other two recipients. 

In 2001, French-American physicist Pierre Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. 

In 1987, Anne L’Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas

In 1987, Anne L’Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas

2023 physics laureate Pierre Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. At the same time, his 2023 co-laureate Ferenc Krausz was working with another type of experiment, one that made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds

2023 physics laureate Pierre Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. At the same time, his 2023 co-laureate Ferenc Krausz was working with another type of experiment, one that made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds

Pulses of light

Light consists of waves – vibrations in electrical and magnetic fields – that move through a vacuum faster than anything else. 

These have different wavelengths, equivalent to different colours. 

For example, red light has a wavelength of about 700 nanometres, one hundredth the width of a hair, and it cycles at about four hundred and thirty thousand billion times per second. 

We can think of the shortest possible pulse of light as the length of a single period in the light wave, the cycle where it swings up to a peak, down to a trough, and back to its starting point.

One attosecond is so short that there are as many in one second as there have been seconds since the birth of the universe, 13.8 billion years ago. 

At the same time, Hungarian-Austrian physicist Ferenc Krausz was working with another type of experiment, which made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds. 

Together, the laureates’ contributions have enabled the investigation of processes that are so rapid they were previously impossible to follow.

There are potential applications in many different areas, including electronics, for example, where it is important to understand and control how electrons behave in a material. 

Attosecond pulses can also be used to identify different molecules, such as in medical diagnostics. 

‘We can now open the door to the world of electrons,’ said Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. 

‘Attosecond physics gives us the opportunity to understand mechanisms that are governed by electrons. 

‘The next step will be utilising them.’ 

The 2023 physics prize comes a day after Hungarian-American Katalin Karikó and American Drew Weissman won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discoveries that enabled the creation of mRNA vaccines against Covid.

Hungarian physicist Ferenc Krausz (pictured) is one of the three recipients for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2023

Hungarian physicist Ferenc Krausz (pictured) is one of the three recipients for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2023

French Physicist Pierre Agostini is pictured

French Physicist Pierre Agostini is pictured

Nobel announcements will continue with the chemistry prize on Wednesday and the literature prize on Thursday. 

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and the economics award next week (October 9). 

The laureates are invited to receive their awards at ceremonies on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist who established the prizes. 

The prestigious peace prize is handed out in Oslo, according to his wishes, while physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and literature are awarded in Stockholm.

Last year, three scientists jointly won the physics prize for proving that tiny particles could retain a connection with each other even when separated. 

The phenomenon was once doubted but is now being explored for potential real-world applications such as encrypting information.

The first Nobel Prizes were presented in 1901, five years after Alfred Nobel's death. Pictured is a bust of Nobel on display at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden

The first Nobel Prizes were presented in 1901, five years after Alfred Nobel’s death. Pictured is a bust of Nobel on display at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden

NOBEL PHYSICS PRIZE: PREVIOUS WINNERS

The 10 most recent Nobel Physics Prize winners are:

2021: Syukuro Manabe (US-Japan) and Klaus Hasselmann (Germany) for climate models, and Giorgio Parisi (Italy) for work on the theory of disordered materials and random processes.

2020: Roger Penrose (Britain), Reinhard Genzel (Germany) and Andrea Ghez (US) for their research into black holes.

2019: James Peebles (Canada-US) for discoveries explaining the universe’s evolution after the Big Bang, and Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz (Switzerland) for the first discovery of an exoplanet.

2018: Arthur Ashkin (US), Gerard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for inventions in the laser field used for advanced precision instruments in corrective eye surgery and industry.

2017: Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss (US) for the discovery of gravitational waves, a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity.

2016: David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz (Britain) for their study of strange phenomena in unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films.

2015: Takaaki Kajita (Japan) and Arthur McDonald (Canada) for their work on neutrinos.

2014: Isamu Akasaki (Japan), Hiroshi Amano (Japan) and Shuji Nakamura (US) for their work on LED lamps.

2013: Peter Higgs (Britain) and Francois Englert (Belgium) for their work on the so-called Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that gives mass to other particles.

2012: Serge Haroche (France) and David Wineland (US) for experimental methods used to measure and manipulate quantum systems.



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