Laser pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Laser pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Laser pioneers win Nobel Physics Prize

Arthur Ashkin, Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland will get the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded Tuesday to Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland for their pioneering work to turn lasers into powerful tools.

Ashkin wins half of the prize for his development of "optical tweezers" which have allowed tiny organisms to be handled with light beams.

Their prize amount is 9 million Swedish krona, or roughly $1.28 million CAD, with one half going to Ashkin and the other half to be shared between Mourou and Strickland.

A Canadian professor ended a 55-year drought for female physicists today when she was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for physics, becoming only the third woman to ever win it. "I thought there might have been more", Strickland said when told she was only the third.

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

"First of all, you have to think it's insane".

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.

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

The Rochester researchers developed an elegant workaround, which they called "chirped pulse amplification".

She added: "I think that he made so many discoveries early on that other people have done great things with that it's fantastic that he is finally recognised". 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. They first stretched out the laser pulse in time by several orders of magnitude, thereby reducing their peak power, then passed the stretched pulse through an amplifier, and finally compressed the pulse again in time to produce a short pulse with much enhanced power.

These became the standard for high-intensity lasers, for example used in millions of corrective eye surgeries per year.

Mourou, 74, now a professor at the École Polytechnique in France, was Strickland's academic advisor at the University of Rochester in NY in the 1980s, where together they created chirped pulse amplification, or CPA.

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