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Nobel Prize shows size doesn't matter

By Reuters in Stockholm and London | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-09 08:13

A German and two US scientists won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for smashing the size barrier in optical microscopes, allowing researchers to see individual molecules inside living cells.

US citizens Eric Betzig and William Moerner, along with Germany's Stefan Hell, won the prize for using fluorescence to take microscopes to a new level, making it possible to study things like the creation of synapses between brain cells in real time.

"Due to their achievements, the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in awarding the 8 million crown ($1.1 million) prize.

Back in 1873, scientists thought there was a limit to what could be seen when Ernst Abbe stipulated that the resolution of an optical microscope could never be better than 0.2 micrometers, or 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

But the three Nobel winners bypassed that limit by scanning fluorescent molecules to build up far more detailed images and leading the way to the creation of "nanoscopy", now used widely to peer into the internal molecular machinery of cells.

(China Daily 10/09/2014 page12)

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