Physics Nobel goes to 3 laser scientists for tools made of light

Physics Nobel goes to 3 laser scientists for tools made of light

The awardees this year include the oldest winner ever as well as the third woman so far to win Nobel Physics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday chose to award the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics to Arthur Ashkin (US) as well as jointly to Gerard Mourou (US) and Donna Strickland (Canada).

Half will go to Arthur Ashkin, of Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, for "optical tweezers and their application to biological systems".

Strickland is the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in physics since 1963, when Maria Goeppert-Mayer was recognized for her work on nuclear shell structure. Strickland is only the third women to be awarded a Nobel in physics 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.

Scientist Gerard Mourou, one of three Nobel Prize laureates for physics 2018, attends a news conference at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, near Paris on October 2, 2018.

The tweezers are "extremely important for measuring small forces on individual molecules, small objects, and this has been very interesting in biology, to understand how things like muscle tissue work, what are the molecule motors behind the muscle tissue", said David Haviland of the academy's Nobel committee.

Strickland had became attracted to laser physics for not only scientific but also aesthetic reasons: She noticed the green and red beams that shone throughout Mourou's lab like a Christmas tree.

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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 inventions being honored this year have revolutionized laser physics", the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said on awarding the nine million Swedish crown ($1 million) prize. They can examine and manipulate viruses, bacteria and other living cells without damaging them.

Dr Strickland and Dr Mourou helped to develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications.

On winning the Nobel, Strickland told The Associated Press: "I just find the whole thing surreal".

The inventions revolutionized the field, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted in its announcement. The technique relies on first stretching out short, energetic laser pulses in time, reducing their peak power and allowing them to be safely fed through an amplifier, after which they are finally compressed back to their original size-dramatically boosting their intensity.

Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.

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