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Their experiments have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules.
Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter.
"The three Nobel Laureates in Physics 2023 are being recognized for their experiments, which have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Tuesday.
"The three scientists have demonstrated a way to create extremely short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy."
In 1987, L'Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas. She has since continued to explore this phenomenon, laying the ground for subsequent breakthroughs.
In 2001, Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds.
Simultaneously, Krausz was working on another type of experiment, one that made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds.
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Students and colleagues at @lunduniversity came together to recognise newly named physics laureate Anne L’Huillier.
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The laureates' contributions have enabled the investigation of processes that are so rapid they were previously impossible to follow.
"We can now open the door to the world of electrons. Attosecond physics gives us the opportunity to understand mechanisms that are governed by electrons. The next step will be utilizing them," Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said.
There are potential applications in many different areas. In electronics, for example, 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, the statement said.
Agostini got his PhD in 1968 from Aix-Marseille University, France. He is now professor at the Ohio State University. Krausz, born 1962 in Mor, Hungary, got his PhD in 1991 from Vienna University of Technology, Austria. He is now director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching and professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, Germany.
L'Huillier, born 1958 in Paris, France, got her PhD in 1986 from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in France. She is now professor at Lund University, Sweden.