Scientists from US, France, Canada win Nobel for laser work

02 October, 2018, 22:01 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland Win 2018 Nobel Prize In Physics For Laser Inventions

Half of this year's nine million Swedish kronor ($998,000) prize goes to American physicist Arthur Ashkin for his invention of "optical tweezers", lasers that can probe the machinery of life without causing damage.

U.S. citizen Ashkin, 96, received the award "for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems", which enables radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, "an old dream of science fiction".

Dr Strickland shares this year's prize with Arthur Ashkin from the United States, and Gerard Mourou from France.

The event also marks the third time in 55 years that a woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics.

Commenting on today's announcement, Jim Al-Khalili, the president of the British Science Association, said: "It is quite shocking to know that she is only the third woman to win a Physics Nobel, ever".

The 59-year-old Guelph, Ont., native made the discovery while completing her PhD at the University of Rochester in NY and will share half of the US$1.01-million prize with her doctoral adviser, French physicist Gerard Mourou.

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Asked what her first reaction to the news was, Strickland told the press conference announcing the prize, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

"I am busy working right now, writing an important paper on solar energy", he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Ashkin's work was based on the realization that the pressure of a beam of light could push microscopic objects and trap them in position.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 will be jointly awarded to three people for their work in manipulating and cutting microscopic objects through laser physics. "So that was my first thought and you do always wonder if it's real", Strickland said during a press briefing this morning at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Sweden.

Achievements by Strickland, of the University of Waterloo in Canada, and Morou, of the École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France, led to the creation of the world's shortest and most intense laser pulses. That increases the pulse intensity, which has found its most practical use in corrective eye surgeries.

Strickland and Mourou's technique, called chirped pulse amplification (CPA), became standard for high intensity lasers. "Millions of eye operations are performed every year with the sharpest of laser beams". Although Ashkin, in the mid 1980s, originally meant to use the technique to manipulate atoms, he soon moved onto larger particles and then biological objects, including viruses and living cells.

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