The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years.
Donna Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppoert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.
Dr Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the US, and Gerard Mourou, from France.
It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics.
Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.
Drs Mourou and Strickland paved the way for the shortest and most intense laser pulses ever created.
Before their pioneering work, 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.
To get round this, the researchers first stretched the laser pulses in time to reduce their peak power, then amplified them and finally compressed them.
When a laser pulse is compressed in time and becomes shorter, more light is packed into a small space. This dramatically increases the intensity of the pulse.
Strickland and Mourou’s technique, called chirped pulse amplification (CPA), became standard for high intensity lasers. It also found a use in the millions of corrective laser eye surgeries which are performed each year.
The award is worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (£770,686; $998,618).
Reacting to her win, Dr Strickland, who is based at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said: “First of all you have to think it’s crazy, so that was my first thought. And you do always wonder if it’s real.
“As far as sharing it with Gerard, of course he was my supervisor and mentor and he has taken CPA (Chirped Pulse Amplification) to great heights so he definitely deserves this award. And I’m so happy Art Ashkin also won.”
She added: “I think that he made so many discoveries early on that other people have done great things with that it’s fantastic that he is finally recognised.”)
The last woman to win the physics prize, German-born American physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer, shared the award for her discoveries about the nuclei of atoms.
Marie Curie, shared the 1903 award with her husband Pierre Curie and Antoine Henri Becquerel for research into radioactivity.
In a statement, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) offered its congratulations to all the winners, adding: “The countless applications made possible by their work, like laser eye surgery, high-power pettawat lasers, and the ability to trap and study individual viruses and bacteria, only promise to increase going forward.
“It is also a personal delight to see Dr Strickland break the 55-year hiatus since a woman has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, making this year’s award all the more historic.”
Cred: BBC News
Photo: BBC News