“The Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 was awarded “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” with one half to Arthur Ashkin “for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems”, the other half jointly to Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland “for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses”
Prof. Dr. Arthur Ashkin had always dreamed that the power of the laser could be utilized in a “Star Trek” scenario of “tractor beams” and “manipulating matter”. He published one of the first – if not THE first – article outlining a procedure for confining and trapping articles by “radiation pressure” by tuning the frequency of a laser to an optical transition in an atom or a molecule. He accomplished trapping small particles with a stable CW laser in 1969 at the old Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1969…
And he continued this effort through the 1970s and 1980s, developing high field lasers that could be utilized in confined fusion-type experiments…
Prof Dr. Gérard Morou and Prof. Dr. Donna Strickland developed ultrafast lasers necessary for the advancement of the technique, adding their own technique in the process.
It was at the University of Rochester – a formidable research institution in Optics and home to Kodak – that the pair co-invented Chirped Pulse Amplification, a “method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses” for which they were awarded this year’s prize.
Prof. Dr. Donna Theo Strickland was born on May 27, 1959 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and is both one of the youngest Nobel laureates and only third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Calling herself “a laser jock”, her work was crucial in development of the field, as outlined in the article, “Compression of Amplified Chirped Optical Pulses” published in 1985.
This led to the development of the high-field ultrashort pulses. Strickland’s recent work has focused on pushing the boundaries of ultrafast optical science to new wavelength ranges such as the mid-infrared and the ultraviolet, using techniques such as two-color or multi-frequency techniques, as well as Raman generation. She is also working on the role of high power lasers in the microcrystalline lens of the human eye, during the process of micro-machining of the eye lens to cure presbyopia. In her professional capacity, she has served as the vice-president (2011) and the president (2013) of The Optical Society.
“Laser Jock” par excellence