October 8, 2014

2014 Chemistry Nobel Goes to Three Physicists for Microscopy Advances

College Park, MD – American Physical Society (APS) Fellow William Moerner (Stanford), APS member Stefan Hell (Max Planck Institute, German Cancer Research Center) and Eric Betzig (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) have won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”.

Fluorescence microscopy has become a crucial tool for imaging chemical and biological samples far beyond the traditional, and long thought to be fundamental, limits that restrict microscopes that rely on lenses alone. The technique produces images at least in part by detecting light emitted by the microscopic sample itself.

“It’s a great year for optics,” said Pierre Meystre (University of Arizona Regents’ Professor of Physics and Optical Sciences, Physical Review Letters Lead Editor), “with blue LEDs winning the Physics Nobel yesterday and fluorescence microscopy winning the Chemistry prize today. It shows that wonderful things are happening in optics from saving enormous amounts of energy with efficient lighting to helping with life-saving medical advances that rely on super-resolution imaging. They are completely different technologies, but both light-based, and next year is the International Year of Light, so the timing couldn’t be better.”

“I’m proud to see physicists honored with the 2014 Chemistry Nobel Prize,” said APS President Malcolm Beasley. “It’s wonderful that the tools they’ve created, though based on physical principles and research, have such important applications in biology and chemistry. We congratulate the Laureates and applaud the Nobel Committee’s choice for this year’s Chemistry prize.”

Among the recipients’ publications, a key paper published in Physical Review Letters is available free-to-read.

Moerner, W. E. and Kador, L. (1989), Optical detection and spectroscopy of single molecules in a solid., Phys. Rev. Lett. 62:2535-2538

Moerner’s Nobel winning microscopy advances have twice been recognized by the APS, with the 2001 Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy & Dynamics and the 2009 Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics.
Gray Arrow 2001 Earle K. Plyler Prize
Gray Arrow 2009 Irving Langmuir Prize


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The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.