The Nobel Prize in Physics was shared this year between American Arthur Ashkin, Frenchman Gérard Mourou and Canadian Donna Strickland share annual award for advances in laser physics.
Ashkin, an affiliate of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, won for his development of “optical tweezers”, a tractor beam-like technology that allows scientists to grab atoms, viruses and bacteria in finger-like laser-beams.
Mourou (École Polytechnique near Paris) and Strickland (University of Waterloo in Ontario) won for work that paved the way for the shortest, most intense laser beams ever created. Their technique, named chirped pulse amplification, is now used in laser machining and enables doctors to perform millions of corrective laser eye surgeries every year.
Attosecond expert Dr Amelle Zaïr is a member of the Photonics & Nanotechnology Group at King’s College London said ‘I am extremely delighted that the Nobel prize in physics 2018 recognised the invention of optical tweezers and the invention of chirp pulse amplification technique to produce ultra-short and intense laser pulses’
She went on to say ‘Nowadays CPA femtosecond lasers are reaching impressive amount of applications. This invention has paved [the way for] state of art laser technology and motivated fundamental discovery for the near future. It has enabled eye surgery, micromatching, ultrafast optics and sensors and transforming our way of seeing nature towards revealing fundamental concepts when matter is subject to such strong and ultrashort electromagnetic fields. I am particular proud to be part of this community of scientists and that [the] UK has invest into this research.’
Dr James Millen specialises in opto- and electromechanics using levitated nanoparticles (he is also a member of the Photonics & Nanotechnology Group. His video below is part of an outreach experiment which shows how particles can be trapped and levitated.
Video Credit: James Millen/Richard Millington