- Press Release
- Jan 28, 2023
NASA-funded physicist shares Nobel Prize
The 2001 Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to
three scientists, including a Massachusetts Institute of
Technology physicist whose NASA-funded research uses ultra-
cold atoms that form a new type of matter.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Dr. Wolfgang
Ketterle and two other scientists have caused atoms to “sing
in unison.” Through their research, atomic particles were
induced to have the same energy and to oscillate together in a
controlled fashion. Laser light has these qualities, but
researchers have struggled for decades to make matter behave
this way. The breakthrough research has potential uses for
extremely precise measurements. The discoveries may
eventually lead to microscopic computers and ultra-precise
gyroscopes that could dramatically improve aircraft guidance
and spacecraft navigation.
The award cites the researchers’ achievements and early
fundamental studies of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute
gases of alkali atoms. Bose-Einstein condensates are a
peculiar form of matter predicted 75 years ago by Albert
Einstein, based on research by the Indian physicist S.N. Bose.
Ketterle, a principal investigator for NASA’s Office of
Biological and Physical Research, Washington, D.C., conducted
the research independently of Drs. Eric Cornell and Carl
Wieman, both of the Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics
and the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
Boulder, Colorado. Part of Ketterle’s research is performed
under a NASA grant administered by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Ketterle was born in Heidelberg, Germany. He received his
diploma, the equivalent of a master’s degree, from the
Technical University of Munich in 1982, and a Ph.D. in physics
from the University of Munich in 1986. After completing
postdoctoral work, he joined the physics faculty at MIT in
1993, where he is now the John D. MacArthur professor.
More information on Ketterle’s research and images of his work
are available on the Internet at:
More information on NASA’s Biological and Physical Research
Fundamental Physics Program can be found on the web at:
JPL manages the Fundamental Physics in Physical Sciences
Program for NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in