Three scientists shared this year's Nobel Prize in physics for demonstrating that extremely short pulses of light can be used to explore the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Tuesday.

The contributions of Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier have "enabled the investigation of processes that are so rapid they were previously impossible to follow," the academy said.

Agostini, an emeritus professor at the Ohio State University, and Krausz, director at Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and a professor at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany, were awarded the prize for separate experiments with short light pulses lasting attoseconds.

Screenshot taken from the Nobel Prize official website shows (from L) Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier, the winners of the 2023 Nobel Prize in physics. (Kyodo)

An attosecond is so short that the amount in one second is roughly equivalent to the number of seconds that have elapsed since the universe began.

L'Huillier, a professor at Lund University in Sweden, laid the foundation for the breakthroughs in 1987 through her discoveries in how laser light interact with atoms in a gas.

"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," says Eva Olsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

The laureates' contributions, which have enabled researchers to observe and manipulate electronic dynamics on an unprecedented timescale, have profound implications for a range of fields, including electronics and medical diagnostics.

The total prize money of 11 million kronor ($990,000) will be shared evenly among the three recipients.


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