Anne L’Huillier

Banquet speech

Anne L’Huillier’s speech at the Nobel Prize banquet, 10 December 2023.

Your Majesties,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Dear laureates,
Ladies and gentlemen

Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz, and I thank the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation for awarding us the Nobel Prize in Physics 2023.

122 years ago, Wilhelm Röntgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physics, for the discovery of a new type of light, X-rays. This light is invisible to us, but it allows us to see invisible bones in our bodies. When Röntgen made this discovery, out of curiosity, he could not have guessed how important it would become for humankind!

We are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery, made out of curiosity, of a new type of light. About 36 years ago, I together with colleagues observed a new phenomenon: An intense laser interacting with a gas of atoms produces high-order harmonics of the laser, many high-order harmonics. This was new, unexpected, unpredicted, and very exciting!

It was soon predicted that these harmonics could lead to extremely short light pulses, in the attosecond range. One attosecond is one billionth of a billionth of a second, let me simply say here that this is an incredibly short time! In 2001, after many years of dedicated effort, my two co-laureates confirmed this prediction and observed incredibly short, attosecond light pulses.

This light is invisible to us but it allows us to see invisible electrons, or electron waves, that move incredibly fast in atoms and molecules. It opens new doors both in basic science and for applications.

We performed our research in many countries: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, the USA, and Sweden! Science is truly international and unites people across borders.

120 years ago, Marie Skłodowska Curie was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. I am the fifth. For more than 100 years, only two women were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. During the last five years, already three women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics! I hope that this is a new trend, which will inspire new generations!

To conclude, my two co-laureates and I thank all of our students, postdocs, and colleagues who have contributed to this research, the organizations, and funders that have made this research possible, and last but not least, our supportive families.

Merci beaucoup! Tack så mycket!

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2023

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