The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Basic Sciences category goes, in this fifteenth edition, to Anne L’Huillier, Paul Corkum and Ferenc Krausz for their pioneering studies of ultrafast processes and breakthroughs in attosecond physics.
The awardees have shown how to observe and control the motion of electrons in atoms, molecules, and solids with ultrashort light pulses on time scales of about one hundred attoseconds. One attosecond is approximately the time for light to travel across an atom and is the natural scale for electronic motion in matter. This time scale was previously inaccessible to experimental studies due to the lack of light pulses with short enough duration.
Anne L’Huillier performed pathbreaking experiments to produce light with very short wavelengths and duration that were seminal to attosecond probing of matter. Paul Corkum developed experiments and an intuitive physical picture for short wavelength light generation, which ultimately allowed the imaging of molecular orbitals. Ferenc Krausz generated ultrashort single light pulses and used them to probe electron motion in atoms. These groundbreaking contributions have opened exciting new frontiers in different areas, including atomic physics, photochemistry, and materials science.