The Nobel Prize in Physics 1989
Born: 10 August 1913, Lorenzkirch, Germany
Died: 7 December 1993, Bonn, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
Prize motivation: “for the development of the ion trap technique”
Prize share: 1/4
The properties of atoms are determined by laws of quantum mechanics that say they can have only fixed energy levels and that electromagnetic radiation with certain frequencies is emitted or absorbed when there are transitions among different energy levels. Opportunities to study the properties and spectrums of atoms are improved if individual atoms can be isolated under constant conditions for longer periods. In the 1950s Wolfgang Paul developed a method for using electrical currents and electromagnetic fields to capture charged atoms—ions—in a trap.