Nobel Prize in Physics


  • Scientists awarded for light pulses that capture electron moves
  • Findings could advance electronics and medical diagnostics
  • Laureates share $1 million prize
  • Second Nobel prize of this year’s line-up

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 snapshot of atomic changes and perhaps improve illness detection.

The winning academy said that their research has provided new methods for examining the motion of electrons inside atoms and molecules, a phenomena that was previously thought 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 an electron to change.

According to Eva Olsson, a member of the Nobel Prize in Physics Selection Committee, “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 field 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 like you may attempt to get images of a Formula 1 racing car as it crosses the finish line with a quick camera. At the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, where he serves as director, he told Reuters that you need a camera to capture precise images and recreate the movement. “This is exactly the concept we use for the movement of electrons, which is the fastest movement that occurs in nature outside the atomic nucleus.”

L’Huillier stated, “It is definitely a great medal and I’m really thrilled to have it. I found out I had won it in the middle of a lecture. It’s astounding. After the news, she continued the lecture, which she later referred to as “a little challenging.”

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

Agostini and his team in France were successful in manufacturing and researching a series of consecutive 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, measured, and used to new research.

Krausz claimed he was attempting to process the reality of receiving the honor.

I didn’t anticipate it, he said. “I feel overpowered.”

Agostini was in Paris, so the academy couldn’t immediately get in touch with him to break the news.

In an interview at his Paris flat, he remarked, “My daughter contacted me and she was asking: “Is it true you have the Nobel prize?” Naturally, I responded, “No, this can’t be true.”

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

The Nobel Prizes were established by dynamite inventor and industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will, and they have been given out continuously since 1901 with only a few hiccups. They are now regarded as the highest honor for scientists worldwide.

With victors like Albert Einstein and prizes for science that has radically altered how we view the world, the physics prize has frequently taken center stage alongside the award for peace.

The physics award announcement will be followed by those for chemistry, literature, peace, and economics. The last was added subsequently to the initial lineup. They will all be made public on consecutive weekdays in early October.