Physics Nobel goes to 3 laser scientists for tools made of light

A trio of American, French and Canadian scientists won the prize for breakthroughs in laser technology.

Nobel Prize in Physics
The awardees this year include the oldest winner ever, as well as the third woman so far to win Nobel Prize in Physics [AFP Photo]

The Nobel Prize in Physics will be shared by Arthur Ashkin, Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland for their work in the field of laser physics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced. 

One half of the 9m Swedish kronor (about $1.01m) award goes to Ashkin, while Mourou and Strickland will share the other half for their “ground-breaking inventions in the field of laser physics,” the Academy said on its website on Tuesday. 

US citizen Ashkin, 96, received the award “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems”, which enables radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, “an old dream of science fiction”.

Ashkin, who in 1987 had used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them, is the oldest winner of a Nobel prize, beating American Leonid Hurwicz, who was 90 when he won the 2007 Economics Prize.

Mourou, who is from France, and Strickland from Canada, jointly received the award “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.”

The two “paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind”, a technique now used in corrective eye surgery.

Strickland is the third woman to win a Noble Physics prize since 1901, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963.

“We need to celebrate women physicists because they’re out there … I’m honoured to be one of those women,” she said. 

The physics prize is the second of the 2018 Nobel Prize awards to be announced, after medicine which was awarded on Monday to two immunologists, James Allison of the US and Tasuku Honjo of Japan.

The awards, endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, are each worth 9 million kronor ($1m) this year.

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 October 8, AFP news agency said.

For the first time since 1949, the Swedish Academy has postponed the announcement of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature until next year, amid a #MeToo scandal and bitter internal dispute that has prevented it from functioning properly.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies