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Nobel Prize in Physics 2018

Physics Nobel Prize Winner 2018
The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three scientists — including one woman — for advancing the science of lasers and creating extremely useful tools out of laser beams. The winners include Arthur Ashkin, 96, a retired American physicist who worked Bell Labs; who won half the prize for optical tweezers, which allow scientists to manipulate microscopic particles (often viruses and bacteria) within a laser beam.

The other winners, Gerard Mourou, 74, now at the École Polytechnique in France and University of Michigan; and Donna Strickland, 59, now at the University of Waterloo in Canada, invented a technology that led to the rapid increase of laser pulse intensity, which has allowed for myriad laser-based tools, including the beams commonly used in laser eye surgery.

Using an ingenious approach, Strickland and Mourou succeeded in creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material. First they stretched the laser pulses in time to reduce their peak power, then amplified them, and finally compressed them. If a pulse is compressed in time and becomes shorter, then more light is packed together in the same tiny space – the intensity of the pulse increases dramatically. Strickland and Mourou’s newly invented technique, called chirped pulse amplification, CPA, soon became standard for subsequent high-intensity lasers.

CPA is the essential tool that enabled the ultrafast science in the NCCR MUST. The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics recognizes the importance of this field for scientific research and industry.

Download Nobel Prize Press Release (153 KB)
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