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Trio get Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 'nanoscopy' work

Americans Eric Betzig and William Moerner and German scientist Stefan Hell won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing new methods that let microscopes see finer details than they could before

Stockholm: Optical microscopy was for long presumed to have a limitation: that it would never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Three scientists - two American and a German - proved this wrong and made an optical microscope into a nanoscope to earn the 2014 Nobel for Chemistry.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday the Nobel Prize to be jointly awarded to Eric Betzig from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn; Stefan W. Hell from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Gottingen; and William E. Moerner from the University of Stanford, Britain.

Today, nanoscopy is used worldwide and new knowledge of greatest benefit to mankind is produced on a daily basis.

In 1873, the microscopist Ernst Abbe stipulated a physical limit for the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopy: it could never become better than 0.2 micrometres.

"Betzig, Hell and Moerner bypassed this limit towards the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy," The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its statement.

Due to their achievements, the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld.

In nanoscopy, scientists visualise the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells.

They can see how molecules create synapses between nerve cells in the brain.

They can also track proteins involved in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases as they aggregate and follow individual proteins in fertilised eggs as these divide into embryos.

Two separate principles are rewarded this year.

While Hell developed stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, Betzig and Moerner laid the foundation for single-molecule microscopy.

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