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

Theresa Obrien
October 2, 2018

Three scientists were announced on Tuesday as the winners of the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics for their work with lasers.

Ashkin's optical tweezers are pretty much what they sound like - extremely small objects that can "grab" particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers.

She is also only the third to have won the physics prize - the first was Marie Curie in 1903.

A major breakthrough came in 1987 when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, the Academy noted.

The winners will be awarded with nine million kronor (£770,000) which has been decided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

After winning the award, Donna Strickland said, "We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there..."

Donna Strickland, a University of Waterloo professor who helped revolutionize laser physics, has been named a victor of this year's Nobel Prize in Physics. Among this year's top contenders were scientists who worked on a technology which showcased the development of solar cells based on a class of mineral called perovskites, devices whose performance is on par with that of silicon solar cells, and which are less costly and energy-intensive to produce. After magnifying its power, the beam was re-compressed, creating a short but highly energetic burst of laser light.

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Donna Strickland is among three scientists who have won the Nobel Prize for work in laser physics.

With CPA, Mourou and Strickland shattered this wall, sparking a trend that allowed lasers to, on average, double in intensity twice per decade. That increases the pulse intensity, which has found its most practical use in corrective eye surgeries.

Chirped pulse amplification stretches, intensifies, and then compresses light for an ultra-short high intensity laser pulse.

"This year's prize is about tools made from light", Göran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, summarizing awards during his remarks at the press conference.

The Nobel Prizes make up a curious institution. "I am very, very happy to share this distinction with my former student Donna Strickland and also to share it with Art Ashkin, for whom I have a lot of respect".

Last year's physics prize went to United States astrophysicists Barry Barish, Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss for their discovery of gravitational waves, predicted by Albert Einstein over a century ago as part of his theory of general relativity.

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