Three scientists jointly win Nobel Prize for Physics

Thursday, 04 Oct, 2018

Arthur Ashkin, the American who developed "optical tweezers", became the oldest Nobel Prize laureate at age 96.

Mourou and Strickland's technique is known as chirped pulse amplification, CPA. It quickly became a standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers finding many varied applications including in the life-changing corrective eye surgeries that are so common today.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Strickland said it was "surprising" it had been such a long time since a woman had won the award. In the case of the Nobel prize which is given for peace, the Norwegian Parliament decides it.

He has since been suspended by the research centre.

"The fact that she's a woman is great for encouraging young women to pursue careers in science", she said.

Strickland took part in the announcement today, and when asked about winning the award she told reporters, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

This year's prize is 9 million Swedish krona (about 1 million US dollars).

Strickland's part in the award was made in December 1985, with the publication of her doctoral dissertation while at the University of Rochester.

She shared the prize with USA scientist Arthur Ashkin and Frenchman Gerard Mourou.

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The trio won for their work in laser physics. The duo conceived of a brilliant approach to creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material.

When asked this morning about the groundbreaking discovery, Strickland said, "It's thinking outside the box to stretch first and then amplify".

"French physicist Gérard Mourou and Canadian physicist Donna Strickland share the other half of the prize for their work on developing very, very short and very intense laser pulses", the Guardian reported. Extremely small objects and incredibly rapid processes are now being seen in a new light. As the name implies, these are focused beams of light that can actually be used to grab particles, atoms and even living cells.

Steven Adie, assistant professor in the Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering, was inspired by Ashkin's early work to come up with a way to use pressure from pulses of laser light to create sub-nanometer shifting of micron-sized particles embedded in soft tissue-like media. 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.

Last year's physics prize went to three Americans who used abstruse theory and ingenious equipment design to detect the faint ripples in the universe called gravitational waves.

The awarding of the prize to Strickland, a Canadian scientist at the University of Waterloo, has ended a drought for women winning any of the prestigious prizes.

"I'm very old and had given up worrying about things like Nobel Prizes", he told The Associated Press.