Laser physics pioneers awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

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 (Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, USA) and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou (École polytechnique, Palaiseau, France; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA) and Donna Strickland (University of Waterloo, Canada).
In 1987, Arthur Ashkin invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers. He succeeded in getting laser light to push small particles towards the centre of the beam and to hold them there. Optical tweezers are now widely used to investigate the machinery of life.
Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland’s revolutionary article was published in 1985. Using an ingenious approach, they succeeded in creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material. Strickland and Mourou’s newly invented technique, called chirped pulse amplification, CPA, soon became standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers. Its uses include the millions of corrective eye surgeries that are conducted every year using the sharpest of laser beams.
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D. Strickland and G. Mourou, © Nobel Media AB