Laser pioneers win Physics Nobel

Three scientists on Tuesday won the Nobel Physics Prize, including the first woman to receive the prestigious award in 55 years, for inventing optical lasers that have paved the way for advanced precision instruments used in corrective eye surgery. Arthur Ashkin of the U.S. won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half. Mr. Ashkin, 96, was honoured for his invention of “optical tweezers” that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. With this he was able to use the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, “an old dream of science fiction,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. A major breakthrough came in 1987 when Mr. Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, the Academy noted.
Oldest Nobel winner
Mr. Ashkin, who made his discovery while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories from 1952 to 1991, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating out American Leonid Hurwicz who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize. Meanwhile Mr. Mourou, 74, and Ms. Strickland ,59, — only the third woman to win the Physics Prize — won for helping develop a method to generate ultra-short optical pulses, “the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind,” the jury said.
Their technique is now used in corrective eye surgery.
Mr. Mourou was affiliated with the Ecole Polytechnique of France and the University of Michigan in the U.S., while Ms. Strickland, his student, is a professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Mr. Mourou was also involved in building the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project and what is believed to be one of the world’s most powerful lasers, the Apollon, in developments that researchers hope will one day help deal with nuclear waste, treating tumours and clearing debris in space. Speaking by phone to the academy, a moved Ms. Strickland said she was thrilled to receive the Nobel prize that has been the least accessible for women.
“We need to celebrate women physicists because they’re out there… I’m honoured to be one of those women,” she said.
Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/laser-pioneers-win-physics-nobel/article25106940.ece

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