The American scientist who invented “optical tweezers” will share the 2018 Nobel Prize in physics with two other scientists, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Tuesday.
Arthur Ashkin, 96, will be honored for devising optical tweezers “that grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells with their laser beam fingers,” stated the Academy’s press release.
“This new tool allowed Ashkin to realise an old dream of science fiction – using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects. He succeeded in getting laser light to push small particles towards the centre of the beam and to hold them there,” the release continued. “A major breakthrough came in 1987, when Ashkin used the tweezers to capture living bacteria without harming them. He immediately began studying biological systems and optical tweezers are now widely used to investigate the machinery of life.”
Ashkin also has the distinction of being the oldest Nobel laureate, reported The Detroit News. He is still working and told the Nobel committee he is “very busy” and may not have time for interviews about his win because of a paper he is writing, reported The Guardian. Ashkin has worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey for decades.
Ashkin will receive half the prize money, while his co-winners Donna Strickland of Canada and Gerard Mourou of France will split the other half.
Strickland and Mourou pioneered a technique used in corrective laser eye surgery.
“The innumerable areas of application have not yet been completely explored,” the academy stated in the press release. “However, even now these celebrated inventions allow us to rummage around in the microworld in the best spirit of Alfred Nobel – for the greatest benefit to humankind.”
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be announced Wednesday. The Nobel Prize in Literature has been postponed in 2019 because of sexual assault allegations against a prominent culture club owner with deep ties to the Swedish Academy, reported The New York Times. (RELATED: American Scientist Shares Nobel Prize For ‘Landmark’ Cancer Therapy)
Ashkin and fellow American James P. Allison, who was announced as one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology, will receive their awards at a Dec. 10 ceremony.
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