2023 Nobel Prize winners announced


Thursday, 05 October, 2023

2023 Nobel Prize winners announced

It’s that time of year again — the first of the 2023 Nobel Prizes have been announced.

Physiology or Medicine

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has decided to award the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, whose research gave rise to the mRNA vaccines that contained the COVID-19 pandemic and saved millions of lives. Karikó and Weissman created base-modified mRNA variants that increase protein production without inducing unwanted inflammatory reactions, making them useful as vaccines.

Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times. Their discoveries are also set to have a significant impact on other areas; because the mRNA platform is so adaptable, the technique can be used to evaluate vaccines against influenza and other infectious diseases.

Physics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2023 to Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier for their experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter. Through their experiments, the three Nobel laureates have demonstrated a way to create extremely short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy, giving humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules.

In 1987, L’Huillier discovered that many different overtones of light arose when she transmitted infrared laser light through a noble gas, caused by the laser light interacting with atoms in the gas; it gives some electrons extra energy that is then emitted as light. In 2001, Agostini succeeded in producing and investigating a series of consecutive light pulses, in which each pulse lasted just 250 attoseconds. At the same time, Krausz was working with another type of experiment, one that made it possible to isolate a single light pulse that lasted 650 attoseconds.

The laureates’ contributions have enabled the investigation of processes that are so rapid they were previously impossible to follow. They have potential applications in many different areas, such as electronics and medical diagnostics.

Chemistry

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Moungi G Bawendi, Louis E Brus and Alexei I Ekimov for their discovery and development of quantum dots — nanoparticles so tiny that their size determines their properties.

Physicists had long known that in theory size-dependent quantum effects could arise in nanoparticles, but this was originally almost impossible to sculpt in nanodimensions. However, in the early 1980s, Ekimov succeeded in creating size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. A few years later, Brus was the first scientist in the world to prove size-dependent quantum effects in particles floating freely in a fluid. Finally, in 1993, Bawendi revolutionised the chemical production of quantum dots, resulting in almost perfect particles that could be utilised in applications.

Quantum dots now illuminate computer monitors and television screens based on QLED technology. They also add nuance to the light of some LED lamps, and biochemists and doctors use them to map biological tissue. Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication.

The Nobel Prizes in Literature, Peace and Economic Sciences will be announced in the coming days. As is tradition, the Nobel Prize award ceremony will take place at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, on 10 December — the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.

Image credit: Nobel Prize award ceremony in Konserthuset Stockholm, 10 December 2022. Image ©Nobel Prize Outreach. Photographer: Nanaka Adachi.

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