BLOGS

Tools Made of Light...

Topics: Diversity in Science, Optical Tweezers, Laser, Nobel Prize, Women in Science

I'm pretty sure I was in the throw of midterms. I did not miss it, just didn't have time to post about it.

Tools made of light

The inventions being honored this year have revolutionized laser physics. Extremely small objects and incredibly rapid processes are now being seen in a new light. Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications.

Arthur Ashkin invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. This new tool allowed Ashkin to realise an old dream of science fiction – using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects. He succeeded in getting laser light to push small particles towards the centre of the beam and to hold them there. Optical tweezers had been invented.

A major breakthrough came in 1987, when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them. He immediately began studying biological systems and optical tweezers are now widely used to investigate the machinery of life.

Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created by mankind. Their revolutionary article was published in 1985 and was the foundation of Strickland’s doctoral thesis.

Press release: The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Mon. 22 Oct 2018. < https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/2018/press-release/ >

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