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Agostini, Krausz, and L’Huillier Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics for Sub-Second Electron Studies

by Chloe Baker
9 comments
Nobel Prize in Physics 2023

The Nobel Prize in Physics was conferred on Tuesday upon three distinguished scientists for their groundbreaking investigations into the movements of electrons around atoms within minuscule fractions of a second. This research area holds promising potential for advancements in electronics and medical diagnostics.

Pierre Agostini, Hungarian-origin Ferenc Krausz, and French-born Anne L’Huillier were honored for their contributions to the understanding of the ultra-fast component of atoms—electrons—that orbit the nucleus and are crucial to almost every aspect of life and technology, ranging from chemistry and physics to human biology and consumer electronics.

Until recently, the rapid motion of electrons eluded human endeavors to study them in isolation. However, by examining them at the smallest temporal fraction attainable—attoseconds—scientists have now gained an initial, albeit imprecise, insight into their behavior, paving the way for new scientific frontiers, according to experts in the field.

Mats Larsson, a member of the Nobel Committee, emphasized the significance of their work: “Understanding and controlling electrons represents a considerable leap forward. Electrons are not only swift but serve as the driving force in virtually all systems.”

Additional Context on the 2023 Nobel Prizes

Other notable laureates include Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their foundational work that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19.

Anne L’Huillier becomes the fifth woman ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics.

What Makes This Research Worthy of the Nobel Prize?

To comprehend electron behavior, the scientists had to focus on an extremely brief timeframe—one quintillionth of a second, termed an ‘attosecond.’ Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee, likened it to the rapid shutter speed employed by photographers to capture a hummingbird in flight.

To put the concept of an attosecond into perspective, Mark Pearce, another Nobel Committee member, stated, “The number of attoseconds in a single second is equivalent to the total seconds elapsed since the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago. It’s an extraordinarily brief period of time.”

Despite these advances, there are limitations to what can be observed. L’Huillier, a 65-year-old researcher at Lund University in Sweden, commented, “We are able to discern whether the electron is located on one side of a molecule or the other. The vision remains fairly indistinct.”

Why is the Study of Electrons Important?

According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which announced the prize in Stockholm, the experiments “provide humanity with new avenues for investigating the electron landscape within atoms and molecules.” Although primarily theoretical at this stage, it is hoped that the research will find various practical applications in fields like electronics, disease diagnostics, and basic chemistry.

L’Huillier highlighted the importance of basic science, citing her own 30-year career in research that only recently has shown signs of practical applicability.

Reactions from the Laureates

Upon receiving the news of her win while teaching, L’Huillier expressed her immense gratitude, acknowledging the rarity of women recipients in this category. Ferenc Krausz, affiliated with the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, received the news on a public holiday in Germany and anticipates celebrating with his colleagues.

Pierre Agostini is associated with Ohio State University in the United States.

The Nobel Prizes come with a cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor (approximately $1 million), funded by a bequest from the Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel. The award ceremony is scheduled for December 10, the anniversary of Nobel’s death.

Nobel Prize announcements will proceed with awards in Chemistry on Wednesday, Literature on Thursday, Peace on Friday, and Economics on October 9.

Reported by Borenstein from Washington and Corder from The Hague, Netherlands.

For more coverage on the Nobel Prizes, visit Nobel Prize News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nobel Prize in Physics 2023

What is the main subject of the article?

The main subject of the article is the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics for the year 2023. It was awarded to three scientists: Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier, for their groundbreaking research into the behavior of electrons around atoms in extremely short time frames known as attoseconds.

Who are the recipients of the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics?

The recipients are Pierre Agostini, who is associated with Ohio State University in the United States; Ferenc Krausz, affiliated with the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany; and Anne L’Huillier, based at Lund University in Sweden.

What is the significance of their research?

Their research focuses on understanding the rapid movement of electrons around atomic nuclei within extremely short time frames—attoseconds. This field holds promising potential for advancements in several sectors including electronics, medical diagnostics, and basic chemistry.

What is an attosecond?

An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second. It is an extraordinarily short period of time, often used to describe phenomena at the quantum level. Mark Pearce, a Nobel Committee member, noted that the number of attoseconds in a single second is equivalent to the total number of seconds that have passed since the Big Bang.

Why is Anne L’Huillier’s win notable?

Anne L’Huillier’s win is notable as she becomes the fifth woman ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics. This is a significant milestone given the historical underrepresentation of women in this field.

Are there any potential applications for this research?

Although the research is primarily theoretical at this stage, it holds promising potential for practical applications in a variety of fields, including electronics, medical diagnostics, and basic chemistry.

How did the laureates react upon receiving the news?

Anne L’Huillier was teaching a class when she received the news and expressed immense gratitude. Ferenc Krausz was reached by phone on a public holiday in Germany and plans to celebrate with his colleagues. Pierre Agostini is associated with Ohio State University in the United States, but his immediate reaction was not described in the article.

What is the prize money for the Nobel Prize in Physics?

The prize carries a cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor, which is approximately $1 million.

When and where will the award ceremony take place?

The award ceremony is scheduled for December 10 and will take place in Stockholm. The date coincides with the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor who established the Nobel Prizes.

What other Nobel Prizes were mentioned?

The article also mentions the Nobel Prize in Medicine, which was awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their work on mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. Future announcements for Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, and Economics were also noted.

More about Nobel Prize in Physics 2023

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9 comments

Timothy Brown October 3, 2023 - 2:17 pm

Just think of the applications! Better electronics and even disease diagnosis? The future’s looking good.

Reply
Peter G October 3, 2023 - 9:29 pm

Man, they’re looking at the stuff that’s too fast for us to see. Who even thinks of that! What a time to be alive.

Reply
Mike_O October 3, 2023 - 11:40 pm

Did anyone catch the part about how many attoseconds there are in a second? Like since the Big Bang? mind blown.

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Melissa Green October 4, 2023 - 2:59 am

Crazy to think that they’ve spent 30 years on this research and its only now that they are getting the recognition they deserve. Well done to all!

Reply
Leo_N October 4, 2023 - 3:25 am

$1 million prize money huh, not bad at all. Well-deserved for such an outstanding contribution to science.

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Sara Williams October 4, 2023 - 3:33 am

So cool that Anne L’Huillier is the 5th woman to win in Physics. About time we see more women recognized in the sciences.

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Rachel M October 4, 2023 - 3:43 am

Honestly, just trying to wrap my head around the time frame they’re dealing with. It’s like, quantum-level fast.

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John Smith October 4, 2023 - 5:17 am

Wow, this is really groundbreaking stuff! A whole new field of research opening up. attoseconds, can’t even fathom how short that is.

Reply
Danielle K October 4, 2023 - 5:32 am

i was amazed how they draw a line between basic science and real-world application. Sometimes, you gotta study the fundamentals without even knowing where it’ll take you.

Reply

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