(Graphic by Brett Ferrin and Autumn Mariano)
(Graphic by Brett Ferrin and Autumn Mariano)

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three researchers who improved the resolution of optical microscopes.

The winners: Eric Betzig (United States), Stefan Hell (Germany) and William Moerner (United States) share the prize money of eight million kronor (approximately $1,116,379.00 in USD).

Their names will be joined with the other 105 prestigious laureates that have been recognized since 1901.

The winners won for using fluorescence to extend the limits of the light microscope.

Optical microscopes are previously thought to never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light, known as Abbe’s diffraction limit.

This limit was named after an equation by a German microscopist by the name of Ernst Abbe in 1873.

Using fluorescent molecules to bypass this diffraction limit allowed scientists to see at a higher level of resolution.

Because of this advancement, scientists will now be able to see the activity of individual molecules inside living cells.

“I got bored with the topic. I felt this was 19th century physics. I was wondering if there was still something profound that could be made with light microscopy. So I saw that the diffraction barrier was the only important problem that had been left over,” Hell said.

Two Japanese scientists, Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, and an American scientist,  Shuji Nakamura, won the Nobel Prize in physics with their invention of blue light-emitting diodes which helped develop the LED technology we used today.

Although the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says their invention is 20 years old, it has benefited us all.

The Nobel Prize for medicine or physiology was awared to John O’Keefe, May Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for their research on “inner GPS” or how the human brain helps people find their way around.



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