Milestone-Proposal:Optical Tweezers

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Docket #:2024-02

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Optical Tweezers and their applications including atomic cooling and biological systems

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Optical Tweezers and their applications including biological systems to grab particles, atoms, viruses and other living cells in their laser beam fingers without harming or altering them and enabling significant advances in investigation including atomic cooling, biology and medicine.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

"The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics honors “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” on opposite ends of the time and intensity scale." "Arthur Ashkin of the United States invented “optical tweezers,” which use low-power laser beams to manipulate tiny objects such as living cells." "Working at Bell Labs in 1970, Ashkin first showed that the pressure of lasers emitting tightly focused, stable beams of light could move small particles. The following year, he showed that an upwards pointing laser beam could provide enough of a push on a small particle to offset the force of gravity. But that levitation found only limited use because other forces such as Brownian motion in water can easily push such a small particle out of the laser beam’s path. In 1986, Ashkin and a Bell Labs team including Steven Chu developed optical tweezers. Their invention featured a short-focus lens that created a strong gradient in the laser beam capable of trapping particles from tens of nanometers to tens of micrometers, even in water. That technique was soon used to demonstrate feats including laser cooling of atoms, for which Steven Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics." [Ref 1] 2018 Nobel Physics Prize for Pioneering Laser Work The honorees, recognized for work on ultrashort, ultrapowerful laser pulses, and delicate laser manipulation of tiny biological structures, include the first woman to get the physics prize since 1963 Jeff Hecht 02 Oct 2018

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

Photonics, Engineering in Medicine and Biology

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

New Jersey Coast Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: New Jersey Coast IM/C Joint Chapter
Senior Officer Name: Katherine Grace August, PhD

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Katherine Grace August, PhD
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Thomas M Willis, III PhD
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Theodore Sizer, II PhD
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Mathini Sellathurai, PhD
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

In the Museum lobby near the 2 IEEE Milestone plaques for the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) and the Trans-Atlantic Telephone Fiber-Optic Submarine Cable (TAT-8).

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The Museum is publicly accessible, and has a security staff.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

AT&T Labs.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.