Anne L’Huillier, Pierre Agostini, and Ferenc Krausz have won the 2023 Physics Nobel Prize for building tools to study the rapid changes in the observable properties of electrons in matter.
Dr L’Huillier's studies in the late 1980s found that an infrared beam shone on a noble gas produced multiple overtones, and they explained this phenomenon using the laws of quantum mechanics.
The reinforcing effect of the overtones could be timed to emit intense peaks with a pulse duration of a few attoseconds.
Dr Agostini and his team demonstrated this in 2001 by producing light with a pulse duration of 250 attoseconds.
In the same year, Dr. Krausz and his team isolated a single pulse, 650 attoseconds in duration, and used it to measure the kinetic energy of electrons kicked out from krypton atoms.
This research marked the arrival of attosecond physics.
The medicine Nobel Prize this year celebrated the invention of mRNA vaccines and their effect on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The invention of mRNA vaccines has had a straightforward utility for people.
Attosecond physics, on the other hand, has potential value in various fields such as biochemistry, diagnostics, superconductivity, and manufacturing techniques.
The laureates' work in attosecond physics has allowed scientists to discover phenomena that occur in attoseconds.
The value of a particular discovery or invention may not be immediately apparent, but it can have unforeseen applications in the future.
The 2016 chemistry laureates were recognized for building motors with individual molecules, which had no known applications at the time.
However, the techniques developed for this feat improved other areas of chemistry.
The importance lies in making something difficult to do before easier, and the excitement of discovering its potential applications.