The 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics was jointly awarded to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier for their work on observing electrons. Photo by Anders Wiklund/EPA-EFE
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A trio of scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for their experiments that allowed the observation of electrons.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to Pierre Agostini from Ohio State University, Ferenc Krausz of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany and Anne L'Huiller of Sweden's Lund University for their experiments that allowed man to look inside and explore electrons inside atoms and molecules.
The three researchers demonstrated ways to create extremely short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy.
"Fast-moving events flow into each other when perceived by humans, just like a film that consists of still images is perceived as continual movement," the academy said in a statement.
"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."
L'Huillier discovered in 1987 that transmitting infrared laser light through a noble gas caused different overtones of light, each with a given number of cycles for each cycle of laser light.
The interaction between the laser light and atoms in the gas gave electrons extra energy that was then emitted as light, serving as the groundwork for the experiment.
More than 20 years later in 2001, Agostoni and Krausz were both working on producing rapid pulses with Agostini investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds while Krausz worked to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds.
"We can now open the door to the world of electrons," Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics. "Attosecond physics allows us to understand mechanisms that are governed by electrons. The next step will be utilizing them."
The academy said that in electronics, 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.