Published: Wed, October 03, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Nobel Prize in Physics jointly awarded to trio of laser physics inventors

Nobel Prize in Physics jointly awarded to trio of laser physics inventors

Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario won part of the USA $1.01 million prize, which she shared with Gerard Mourou of France and Arthur Ashkin of the United States.

They are Arthur Ashkin, a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, Gerard Mourou, a professor emeritus both at Ecole Polytechnique in France and the University of MI, and Donna Strickland, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her discovery of radiation, and the first woman to win twice after receiving the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911. "Obviously we need to celebrate woman physicists because we're out there".

Asked what her first reaction to the news was, Strickland told the press conference announcing the prize, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

Strickland and the third victor, Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and University of MI, developed a way to generate high-intensity, ultra-short bursts of laser light.

The Nobel committee said the inventions revolutionised laser physics, by making extremely small objects and incredibly fast processes appear in a new light.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Strickland said it was "surprising" it had been such a long time since a woman had won the award.

France's President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to the French co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, saying the award highlights French research and its applications.

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She and Mourou found a way to produce a powerful laser pulse that lasts an nearly unimaginably short period of time.

The prestigious award was given with one half to Arthur Ashkin and the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland.

"First of all, you have to think it is insane!" said Professor Strickland, on hearing the news.

Monday: Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine is awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for advances in discovering how the immune system can fight off cancer. In 1987, he used a laser to seize and hold bacteria without harming them.

Mourou had been Strickland's PhD supervisor and said he was thrilled at the win.

Chirped pulse amplification has been used to study the properties of light and its interactions with particles, as well as laser micromachining to carefully cut into materials for chips or even laser eye surgery.

However, she stressed that she had "always been treated as an equal", and that "two men also won it with me, and they deserve this prize as much if not more than me".

A 1997 paper on stretching DNA with optical tweezers - authored by Michelle Wang, professor of physics - was cited in the Nobel Prize announcement. A sixth prize in economics was created, in Nobel's memory, by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

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