Optical tweezers: Golly lasers & lateness
On October 2, as we celebrated Gandhi Jayanti, there was another good news. The Nobel prize for Physics was awarded to Donna Strickland, Gerard Mourou and Arthur Ashkin. They represented three outstanding Physicists from different geographies, gender and age. Donna Strickland from Canada was the first woman winner of the Physics Nobel Prize in 55 years, after Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963, making this a small threesome.
Similarly, Art Ashkin is, perhaps, the oldest person at 96 to win a Nobel Prize ever. The prize of nine million Swedish Kronor, which is almost a million USD, acknowledges their contributions to the field of lasers. Art Ashkin developed a technique called ‘optical tweezers’, which are used for studying biological systems. This was the ‘science-fiction dream’ realisation of using the radiation pressure of light to move really small objects. He invented the optical tweezer, which can clutch and grip particles, atoms, even viruses, bacteria and living cells. While this became possible, as explained by scientists, ‘the peak power of laser pulses was limited because, when cranked up to high intensities, they would destroy the material used for amplifying its energy.’
Carrying this forward, …read more