Physics Nobel for laser pioneers includes first woman in 55 years

02 October, 2018, 21:01 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Trio Win Nobel Physics Prize For Work On Laser Physics

Optical physicists Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland has won this year's Nobel Prize in Physics for "groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics".

Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for their work with lasers.

Ashkin, of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, developed "optical tweezers" that can grab tiny particles such as viruses without damaging them. The other two notable women winners were Maria Goeppert-Mayer, awarded in 1963, and Marie Curie, awarded in 1903. By 1987 he had used the tweezers to capture bacteria, a technique now commonly used to study living systems, including to study the "biological motors" that move molecules within a cell as well as cells themselves. "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. Strickland is only the third women to be awarded a Nobel in physics ever.

The other half will be split jointly between French physicist Gérard Mourou and Canadian physicist Donna Strickland for their development of "chirped pulse amplification"-a method for making ultra-short, high-intensity laser pulses now routinely used in corrective eye surgery and precision machining".

Students have historically not been recognized by the Nobel Committee, something that critics say overlooks the work done by young scientists who are more frequently women and underrepresented minorities. Because laser beams could only be amplified so far before they destroyed the amplifying material, Strickland and Mourou chose to first "stretch" out a laser pulse, lowering its peak power by slowing it down.

This year's Nobel Prize for physics has been awarded to three researchers for devising tools made from light.




Reacting to her win, Dr Strickland, who is based at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: "First of all you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought". The duo conceived of a brilliant approach to creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material.

This technique is used in millions of laser eye surgeries every year, according to the academy statement. What we are looking at is actually a awful failure that has only now begun to rectify itself: that of the Nobel Committee having ignored female candidates for the prize for half a century.

Wednesday: Nobel Prize in chemistry will be awarded.

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"The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionised laser physics".

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