NSF News

NSF congratulates laureates of the 2023 Nobel Prize in physics

3 scientists shared the prize 'for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter.'

The U.S. National Science Foundation congratulates Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L'Huillier on their 2023 Nobel Prize in physics. Their groundbreaking discoveries have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules and paved the way for the creation of new technologies.

Since the late 1980s, researchers have been conducting experiments designed to track the movement of electrons. These movements are incredibly fast and are measured at a time scale called attoseconds — for comparison, an attosecond is to a second what a second is to about 31.71 billion years.

Through their independent efforts and combined work — which extends to the broader physics community — the researchers developed a technique to produce snapshots of the electrons' motion in real time. Their breakthrough method involved short pulses of light called "attosecond pulses." These pulses opened yet another door into the subatomic world, revealing the detailed dynamics of these ubiquitous particles.

NSF is proud to have supported the work of Agostini. Over the course of his career, he has received four awards for his experiments in strong field physics and on the atom's response to ultra-fast bursts of electromagnetic radiation. For decades, NSF has funded research on lasers — like the beam of light used by the laureates' during their experiments — attoseconds and the basic laws governing the physical world.

"Today, we honor the researchers whose ground-breaking discoveries have deservedly earned them the most prestigious scientific award in the world" said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "Their transformative research has the capacity to revolutionize fields such as electronics and medicine, enhancing societal health and growing the industries of today and tomorrow."

To date, NSF has supported 73 Nobel Laureates in physics and 259 Nobel laureates across the science categories.