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In an Attosecond: Nobel 2023

The Nobel Prize 2023 in Physics was awarded on October 3, 2023 to three scientists. Let's see who won and why.

Who won the prize?

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and Anne L’Huillier were jointly awarded the award for their contribution to the field of attosecond physics.

What did they win the prize for?

The three researchers were recognised for developing methods and experiments to generate attosecond pulses of light which could be used for studying electron dynamics.

What are attosecond pulses?

Attoseconds are referred to as 10-18th of a second, which is a very very short amount of time. The processes that occur on a subatomic particle level fall in this time window. So, naturally, to capture the subatomic particles in this narrow range of time, we need a source that can work in the limited time range and this is what attosecond pulses do. Researchers put an attosecond laser pulse over a molecule repeatedly and get images that help in its evaluation.

How are attosecond pulses generated?

An attosecond pulse is very small and exists for a very short time. We know that waves can interact in a way that can result in the amplification or canceling of the wave. Scientists used this principle of interference to cancel out the rest of the wave to produce a tiny and minuscule wave. They achieved this by exposing a laser light source to a noble gas. The electron in the presence of an external laser can escape the hold of the nucleus. When the laser field's direction is changed, the electron gets pulled back and it releases energy in the form of radiation as overtones. These multiple overtones released by the gas interfere and superimpose with each other in such a manner that they generate an attosecond pulse.

What are attosecond pulses used for?

As stated above, these pulses are used to study the electron dynamics in matter. These can be used in various fields like electronics or understanding the fundamental properties of atoms.

These short-duration pulses are revolutionary in learning electron dynamics and will alter how subatomic particles are viewed.


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