Chemistry Nobel Prize 2014

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced that the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the year 2014 is being awarded to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”. For years, it was assumed that the resolution that could be achieved by optical microscopy was limited to half the wavelength of light. These three scientists overcame this perceived limitation with the help of fluorescent molecules. Their work has made it possible to “study molecular processes in real time” according to the Nobel Committee Chair. The winners will share the prize money of 8 mn kroner.

nobel-prize-chemistry-winneLimitation on Resolution

It was assumed by the scientific community that it would be impossible to study living cells in its tiniest molecular detail. The microscopist Ernst Abbe had set 0.2 micrometres as the maximum resolution that could be achieved through optical microscopy. This development took place in 1873, and for decades no scientist could achieve a better resolution. These three scientists surpassed Abbe’s limitation and enabled scientists to analyse the nanoscopic world. The scientists have been awarded for their work with two different approaches, namely, stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy and single molecule microscopy.

Work of Stefan Hell

Stefan Hell developed the STED microscopy method in 2000. To better Abbe’s resolution, he used two laser beams. One beam stimulated the fluorescent molecules to grow, while the other beam cancelled out all fluorescence except that in a nanometer sized volume.

Work of Betzig and Moerner

Betzig and Moerner worked with single molecule microscopy. This method is based on the ability to turn the fluorescence of molecules on and off. A couple of different molecules are allowed to glow each time the image is recorded;. Then, all the recorded images are superimposed to form one complete image covering all molecules. This method was first tested in 2006.

Breakthrough work

The work done by these scientists enables researchers and other to analyse individual molecules, thus enabling them to carry on further research. With the ability to look at individual molecules, we can better understand the human anatomy and the occurrence of various diseases.

About Eric Betzig

Eric Betzig is an American citizen who born in 1960 in USA. He is a Group Leader at the Janelia Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in USA

About Stefan W. Hell

Stefan W. Hell is a German citizen who was born in Romania in 1962. He is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, and Division head at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany.

William E. Moerner

William E. Moerner is an American citizen who was born in USA in 1953. He is the Harry S. Mosher Professor in Chemistry and Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford University in USA.


Categories: Awards Current Affairs 2017