Eric Betzig, Stefan W Hell and William E. Moerner on 8 October 2014 won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.
They were awarded for having bypassed a presumed scientific limitation stipulating that an optical microscope can never yield a resolution better than 0.2 micrometres.
Two separate principles were rewarded:
Stimulated Emission Depletion (STED) microscopy: It was developed by Stefan Hell in 2000. Under this method, two laser beams are utilized, one stimulates fluorescent molecules to glow, another cancels out all fluorescence except for that in a nanometre-sized volume. Scanning over the sample yields an image with a resolution better than stipulated limit of 0.2 micrometers.
Single-Molecule Microscopy: Eric Betzig and William Moerner, working separately, laid the foundation for this method. The method relies upon the possibility to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. Scientists pictured the same area multiple times, letting just a few interspersed molecules glow each time. Superimposing these images yields a dense super-image resolved at the nanolevel. In 2006 Eric Betzig utilized this method for the first time.
Development of Super-Resolved Fluorescence Microscopy
In 1873, the microscopist Ernst Abbe stipulated a physical limit for the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopy that it could never become better than 0.2 micrometers. Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner ingeniously circumvented this limitation and brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.
Through nanoscopy, scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells. They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain as well as they can track proteins involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Moreover, they can track cell division at the nanolevel itself.
About the Awardees- Eric Betzig
• Eric Betzig is a scientist based at the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia.
• He was educated at the California Institute of Technology in 1983 and Cornell University in 1985.
• He did the PhD in 1988 from the Cornell University.
• Since 2005, he has been a Group Leader at Janelia Farm Research Campus and is developing new optical imaging technologies for biology.
Stefan W. Hell
• Stefan W. Hell is a scientific member of the Max Planck Society and a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen where he currently leads the Department of NanoBiophotonics.
• Stefan W. Hell received his diploma in 1987 and doctorate in physics in 1990 from the University of Heidelberg.
• From 1991 to 1993, he worked at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg.
• In 1997 he was appointed to the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, where he has built up his current research group dedicated to sub-diffraction-resolution microscopy.
William E. Moerner
• William E Moerner is an American physical chemist and chemical physicist with current work in the biophysics and imaging of single molecules.
• Moerner attended Washington University in St. Louis for undergraduate studies.
• His Ph.D. thesis was on vibrational relaxation dynamics of an IR-laser-excited molecular impurity mode in alkali halide lattices.
• W.E. Moerner worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, California as a Research Staff Member from 1981-1988.
• His current areas of research and interest are physical chemistry, chemical physics, biophysics, nanoparticle trapping, nanophotonics, photorefractive polymers and spectral hole-burning.
When: 8 October 2014