In DepthNobel Prizes

Light loophole wins laurels

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 290-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6207.290

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For more than 100 years, microscopists thought they would never get a clear close-up look at living organisms in visible light micrographs. The stumbling block was the so-called Abbe diffraction limit, a supposed physical law that stated optical images could never reach a resolution finer than half a wavelength of light. But beginning in the late 1990s, Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, and William Moerner of Stanford University found a way to blast through that limit by using fluorescence to coax objects to reveal details through their own light. The techniques netted them this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry.

  • * With reporting by Robert F. Service.

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