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Three researchers win Nobel Prize in Physics for using light to study electrons

Three researchers win Nobel Prize in Physics for using light to study electrons

Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier were awarded the prize Nobel of Physics 2023 for creating ultrashort pulses of light, which can provide a snapshot of changes inside atoms, which could improve disease detection.

The Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize, said their studies had provided humanity with new tools to explore the movement of electrons inside atoms and molecules, where changes occur in a few tenths of an attosecond, a unit so short that there are as many in a second as there are seconds since the birth of the universe.

The prize was raised to 11 million Swedish crowns (about US$ 1 million).

The ability to generate attosecond pulses of light has opened the door to a tiny, extremely tiny time scale, and also to the world of electrons”said Eva Olsson, member of the Selection Committee for the Nobel Prize in Physics.

It was previously thought that these changes in electrons could not be seen, but the use of attosecond pulses has changed that, he added.

The discoveries can be applied in many fields. In electronics, it is important to understand and control how electrons behave in a material.

The field is also promising in areas such as a new in vitro diagnostic technique to detect characteristic molecular traces of diseases in blood samples, the academy noted.

L’Huillier, who was in the middle of a dissertation when he received the news of the award, said at a press conference that it is an award “really prestigious” and that is “very happy to receive it.” “Is incredible”.

L’Huillier, who was born in France and is only the fifth woman to receive the award, works at Lund University in Sweden. Agostini, who is French-American, is a professor at Ohio State University; Krausz, of Hungarian origin, is director of the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, in Germany.


L’Huillier discovered a new effect of the interaction of laser light with the atoms of a gas in experiments begun in the 1980s. Agostini and Krausz demonstrated how it could be harnessed to create shorter pulses of light than previously possible. .

Krausz said at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics that he was trying to come to terms with winning the prize.

“I did not expect. I am overwhelmed”, he declared to Reuters.

Krausz, whose team generated the first ultrafast pulses in the early 2000s, had previously compared attosecond physics to a fast-shutter camera in which brief flashes of light allowed the image to be frozen within the microcosm.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is the second Nobel Prize awarded this week, after Hungarian scientist Katalin Karikó and her American colleague Drew Weissman won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, for their discoveries of mRNA molecules that paved the way for vaccines against COVID-19. 19.

Created in the will of the inventor of dynamite and businessman Alfred Nobel, the prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace have been awarded since 1901 – with some interruptions – and are the highest honor for scientists around the world.

While the Peace Prize may steal the spotlight, the physics prize has also often taken center stage, with winners such as Albert Einstein and awards given to science that has fundamentally changed the way we see the world.

Last year, Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger won the prize for their work on quantum entanglement, in which two particles are linked regardless of the space that separates them, something that worried Einstein himself, who once referred to to it as “creepy distance action”.

The Physics prize will be followed by those for Chemistry, Literature, Peace and Economics, the latter added later to the original list, and which will be announced within the week.

Source: Gestion

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