On 2 October 2018, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. Arthur Ashkin (US) shares this Nobel Prize with Gérard Mourou (France) and Donna Strickland (Canada) for their “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics.”
Arthur Ashkin’s award was “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems.” This is a technique developed by Ashkin in the late 1960s (first published in 1970) using laser beam(s) to create a force trap that can be used to physically hold and move microscopic objects (from atoms and molecules to living cells). The technique now is widely used in studying a variety of biological systems, with applications such as cell sorting and bio-molecular assay.
You’ll find a detailed briefing entitled, “Optical Tweezers – Working Principles and Applications,” here:
Arthur Ashkin. Source: laserfest.org
Arthur Ashkin is a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. At 96, he the oldest person to be awarded a Nobel Prize.
The award to Mourou and Strickland was “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.” They developed a technique in the mid-1980s called “chirped pulse amplification” (CPA) that is used to produce very short duration laser pulses of very high intensity. CPA is applied today in laser micromachining, surgery, medicine, and in fundamental science studies.
You’ll find a brief tutorial entitled, “Chirped-Pulse Amplification Ultrahigh peak power production from compact short-pulse laser systems,” here:
Gérard Mourou. Source: American Physical Society (APS). Donna Strickland. Source: University of Waterloo
Gérard Mourou is the director of the Laboratoire d’Optique Appliquee at the ENSTA ParisTech (École nationale supérieure de techniques avancées). He was Donna Strickland’s PhD advisor.
Donna Strickland is an associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Waterloo, Canada (about 90 km west of Toronto). She is the first female Physics laureate in 55 years. The preceding female Physics laureates were:
- In 1963, Maria Goeppert-Mayer was recognized for her work on the structure of atomic nuclei (shared with J. Hans D. Jensen and Eugene Wigner).
- In 1903, Marie Curie was recognized for her pioneering work on nuclear radiation phemomena (shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel).
You can read the press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics here:
Congratulations to the 2018 Nobel Physics laureates!