Light at the focus of 2014 Physics and Chemistry Nobel Prizes!

As a fantastic lead-in to the International Year of Light (IYL2015), the Nobel Prizes for Physics and Chemistry for 2014 have both been awarded to scientists working in fields of light science and technology.

The Nobel Prize for Physics announced on Tuesday, 7 October went to Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano for the development of the blue LED.  Blue LEDs are familiar to us all as blinking lights on computers and mobile devices, key components in flat screens and as the technology underlying the white light sources revolutionizing the lighting industry. 

As announced by the Nobel committee, the laureates have been “rewarded for having invented a new energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source.” The committee also noted the very practical nature of the invention and stated “In the spirit of Alfred Nobel the prize rewards an invention of greatest benefit to mankind; using blue LEDs, white light can be created in a new way. With the advent of LED lamps we now have more long-lasting and more efficient alternatives to older light sources.”

As if one Nobel Prize in light science for 2014 was not enough, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2014 announced on Wednesday, 8 October was awarded to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.  The background to this prize is the revolutionary work by the laureates to overcome the presumed limitation of optical microscopy that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light.  However, using fluorescent molecules Betzig, Hell and Moerner were able to overcome this limitation and bring optical microscopy into the nanoscale dimension.

Chairman of the IYL 2015 Steering Committee John Dudley comments:

I am sure I speak for the worldwide IYL community in offering sincere and heartfelt congratulations to the Nobel laureates in physics and chemistry.  Their work shows the importance of optical science in so many different ways: from providing enabling technologies which have impact on our daily lives and which can address challenges in quality of life and energy, to developing fundamentally new imaging techniques at the nanoscale that are already having tremendous interdisciplinary impact.