Scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for using pulses of light to study the behaviour of electrons, in work which could advance medical diagnostics and electronics.
The prize, which was raised this year to 11 million Swedish crowns (about R19-million), is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The academy said the work by the trio had given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules with applications in fields such as electronics and medical diagnostics.
“The laureates’ experiments have produced pulses of light so short that they are measured in attoseconds, thus demonstrating that these pulses can be used to provide images of processes inside atoms and molecules,” it said in a statement.
L’Huillier told a news conference: “It is really a prestigious prize and I’m so happy to get it. It’s incredible.”
She works at Lund University in Sweden and Agostini is a professor at Ohio State University in the US. Krausz is director at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics.
Physics is the second Nobel to be awarded this week after Hungarian scientist Katalin Kariko and US colleague Drew Weissman won the medicine prize for making mRNA molecule discoveries that paved the way for Covid-19 vaccines.
Created in the will of dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel, the prizes for achievements in science, literature and peace have been awarded since 1901 with a few interruptions, becoming the arguably highest honour for scientists everywhere.
While the award for peace can hog the limelight, the physics prize has likewise often taken centre stage with winners such as Albert Einstein and awards for science that has fundamentally changed how we see the world.
Last year, Alain Aspect, John Clauser and Anton Zeilinger won the prize for work on quantum entanglement, where two particles are linked regardless of the space between them, something that unsettled Einstein himself who once referred to it as “spooky action at a distance”.
Announced on consecutive weekdays in early October, the physics prize announcement will be followed by ones for chemistry, literature, peace and economics, the latter a later addition to the original line-up. — Niklas Pollard, Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander, with Terje Solsvik, (c) 2023 Reuters