The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems” and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.”
The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionised laser physics. Extremely small objects and incredibly fast processes now appear in a new light. Not only physics, but also chemistry, biology and medicine have gained precision instruments for use in basic research and practical applications.
Arthur Ashkin, 96, invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms and molecules with their laser beam fingers. Viruses, bacteria and other living cells can be held too, and examined and manipulated without being damaged. Ashkin’s optical tweezers have created entirely new opportunities for observing and controlling the machinery of life.
Gérard Mourou (74) and Donna Strickland paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by mankind. The technique they developed has opened up new areas of research and led to broad industrial and medical applications; for example, millions of eye operations are performed every year with the sharpest of laser beams.
Arthur Ashkin of the United States won one half of the nine million Swedish kronor (about $1.01 million or 870,000 euros) prize, while Gerard Mourou of France and Donna Strickland of Canada shared the other half.
The winners of the chemistry prize will be announced on Wednesday, followed by the peace prize on Friday. The economics prize will wrap up the Nobel season on Monday, October 8.
Source: The Nobel Prize