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Arthur Ashkin Dies

Arthur Ashkin, who won the Nobel Prize for his development of optical tweezers, has died, the Washington Post reports. He was 98.

Ashkin, who was a researcher at what is now Nokia Bell Labs, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics at the age of 96, the Post adds, noting that he was the oldest prize recipient until the following year when John Goodenough won in chemistry at the age of 97. 

According to his Nobel citation, Ashkin developed lasers that can isolate and hold onto particles, atoms, viruses, and cells, a tool he then applied to study bacteria. "Optical tweezers were not an invention, they were a surprise," David Grier, a former colleague of Askin's who is a physicist at New York University, told the New York Times in 2018 when Askin won the Nobel. "That was a new thought for science, that light can pull. It is revolutionary."

Optical tweezers have now been used to study molecular processes and human disease, the Post notes. Following his retirement from Bell Labs, Ashkin continued to work in his home lab, and, according to the Post, was working on low-cost solar power.