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2023 Nobel Prize: Creators Of Attosecond Light Pulses Win Award In Physics

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The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier for developing ultra-short light pulses that can provide a picture of atomic changes and perhaps improve illness diagnosis.

The host academy said that their research has provided new methods for examining the motion of electrons inside atoms and molecules, a phenomenon that was previously considered to be untraceable.

A few tenths of an attosecond—a time interval so brief that there are as many attoseconds in a second as there have been seconds since the universe’s creation—is all it takes for one electron to change.

One of the selectors in the Selection Committee of the Nobel Prize in Physics, Eva Olsson said, “The ability to generate attosecond pulses of light has opened the door on a tiny, extremely tiny, time scale and it’s also opened the door to the world of electrons.”

The discoveries have potential applicability across a wide range of fields. Understanding and regulating how electrons act in a substance is crucial in electronics.

According to the academy, the discipline also shows promise in areas like a novel in-vitro diagnostic method to find the distinctive molecular signs of illnesses in blood samples.

Attosecond physics has been compared by Krausz, a Hungarian-born scientist, to a fast-shutter camera where the brief light flashes enable a freeze-frame view of the microcosm. His team produced the first ultra-fast pulses in the early 2000s.

“Just as you try to photograph a Formula 1 racing car with a fast camera, for example, as it runs through the finish line. You need a camera to take sharp snapshots and reconstruct the movement. This is exactly the concept we use for the fastest movements that happen in nature outside the atomic nucleus, which is the movement of electrons,” said Krausz, who is a director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany.

L’Huillier stated, “It is really a prestigious prize and I’m so happy to get it. It’s incredible.” She said after she got the news in the middle of her lecture. She continued her lecture just after and referred to the half hour news as “a bit difficult.”

L’Huillier, who was born in France and is only the fifth woman to earn the Nobel Prize in Physics, works at Lund University in Sweden, while Agostini, who was born in France as well, is an emeritus professor at Ohio State University in the United States.

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the two French champions, writing on social media, “What pride for our Nation!”

In studies that she conducted starting in the 1980s, L’Huillier found a novel phenomenon caused by the interaction of laser light with gaseous atoms. Then, Agostini and Krausz showed how this may be utilised to make light pulses that are shorter than previously achievable.

Agostini and his team in France were successful in manufacturing and researching a sequence of successive light pulses, similar to a train with carriages, whereas Krausz and his colleagues in Austria were working on a method that could choose a single pulse.

All of these investigations demonstrated that attosecond pulses could be seen, quantified, and used to new research.

Physics is the second Nobel prize to be given this week. The medicine prize was received by American colleague Drew Weissman and Hungarian researcher Katalin Kariko on Monday, for their work on the mRNA molecule, which opened the path for COVID-19 vaccinations.

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