LION PI Michel Orrit wins Physica Prize 2016


The Nederlandse Natuurkunde Vereniging and Stichting Physica have announced that LION PI Michel Orrit will receive the national Physica Prize 2016. Michel Orrit is honoured with the prize for his groundbreaking work on single molecule spectroscopy. In the mid ‘80s, Orrit came to the realization that it should be possible to optically detect a single molecule. A few years later, in 1990, he indeed became the first one to detect the fluorescence signal of one molecule.

Last year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Betzig, Hell and Moerner for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. The Nobel Committee’s description of the scientific background clearly showed the groundbreaking significance of Orrit’s experiment as the basis for the super-resolution techniques that were established afterwards. Moerner measured a single molecule slightly before Orrit, using absorption, but Orrit’s measurement using fluorescence produced much less background noise and became the standard in this scientific field.

Orrit’s work gave rise to a whole new research area; single molecule/particle optics. Since he started working at the Leiden Institute of Physics, he has built up a very active research group. Recently they developed a ‘nano microphone’— a microphone consisting of only one molecule.

Every year, Stichting Physica awards the Physica prize to an eminent physicist employed in The Netherlands. After consulting several representatives of the Dutch physics community, the board members of the Nederlandse Natuurkunde Vereniging and Stichting Physica select a winner. Orrit will receive his prize at the PHYSICA 2016 conference, on April 8th in Nijmegen.