The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences recognized the scholars “for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light for the study of electron dynamics in matter.”
DiMauro said that Agostini’s work allowed scientists to capture the movement of electrons – which can move at the astonishing rate of 43 miles per second. Agostini and the other laureates created techniques to capture electrons using pulses of light that last just an attosecond – one quintillionth of a second.
He compared the advance to what Eadweard Muybridge did when, working at a racetrack in California, he developed a camera that could freeze the motion of a horse galloping.
“Playing back these photos in a sequence produced one of the first movies. The attosecond leap in time made by Professor Agostini was a quadrillion times shorter than the Muybridge camera shutter,” DiMauro said.
This is significant because electrons are the “glue of matter,” he said.
“Now, since you can clock them, you can also intervene and alter their outcome – for example, engineer new devices that can optimize the speed of electronic operations.”
DiMauro said despite his great accomplishments, Agostini is a humble man who likes to put the spotlight on others.
“He is a very kind, humble, generous person, and a real scholar.”
When he is at Ohio State, students love working with Agostini and considers him an “alternate adviser.”
“He loves talking to students and they really liked the fact that he challenges them because he does it in a way that’s not intimidating,” DiMauro said.
Michael Poirier, professor and chair of physics at Ohio State, also praised the work of Agostini.
“He is a great scholar. This is clearly about Pierre, but it also shows the great work in ultra-fast physics here at Ohio State,” Poirier said.
“It is an indicator that we are one of the leading institutions in the world in this area.”
Agostini said he is grateful to Ohio State for giving him an opportunity to work in 2005 after he retired from French institutions.
“I’m very happy for Ohio State. First of all, Ohio State is the place that gave me a place to work … after retirement. And I’m very grateful to Ohio State, and I hope they will get some benefit from this Nobel Prize.”