Americans Eric Betzig and William Moerner and German scientist Stefan Hell have bagged the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing new methods that let microscopes see finer details than they could not see before. The trio were awarded for developing super-resolved fluorescence microscopy which bypassed the maximum resolution of traditional optical microscopes. "Their ground-breaking work has brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension," said the academy in its citation.
Betzig works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia while Hall is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany. Moerner is a professor at Stanford University in California.
For a long time optical microscopes were limited by a resolution not better than 0.2 micrometers. But with fluorescent molecules, the three were able to cross the limit, thereby taking optical microscopy to a new height has enabled the study of the interplay between molecules in cells, including the grouping of disease-related proteins. The Nobel laureates used these methods to study the smallest components of life. Hell has studied the nerve cells to understand brain synapses while Moerner has studied proteins related to the Huntington's disease. Betzig has tracked cell division inside embryos using the new method.