Arthur Ashkin, 2 others win Nobel Physics Prize for laser research

The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday

Donna Strickland, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, has won the coveted global prize in Physics, sharing it with American scientist Arthur Ashkin and Gérard Mourou from France.

United States citizen Ashkin, 96, received the award "for the optical tweezers and their application to biological systems", which enables radiation pressure of light to move physical objects, "an old dream of science fiction". Arthur Ashkin of the United States and Canadian Donna Strickland also share the prize.

Marie Curie, who is the only woman who has received two Nobel Prizes, was the first woman to ever win the physics prize in 1903 for her co-discovery of radiation.

Strickland said her first thought on hearing she'd won the physics prize was "it's insane". The 96-year-old physicist may not be available to give interviews today, he told the Nobel committee, because he is "very busy working on his latest paper".

The Nobel prizes have always been dominated by male scientists, and none more so than physics.

Dr Strickland has spent much of her life studying and teaching physics, and describes her research as "fun".

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Mr Mourou and Ms Strickland helped develop short and intense laser pulses that have broad industrial and medical applications.

It was at the University of Rochester that the pair co-invented Chirped Pulse Amplification, a "method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses" for which they were awarded this year's prize. A breakthrough came in 1987 when he used the new optical tweezers to grab living bacteria without harming them. "I thought there might have been more but I couldn't think", said the physicist during the ceremony. The technique relies on first stretching out short, energetic laser pulses in time, reducing their peak power and allowing them to be safely fed through an amplifier, after which they are finally compressed back to their original size-dramatically boosting their intensity.

"The inventions being honoured this year have revolutionised laser physics".

When the pair refined the technique, Strickland recalled Mourou's advice to talk up their accomplishment and tell their peers that the gigawatt laser they had developed would lay the groundwork for devices a million times more powerful down the road.

Askkin will receive half of the 9 million krona ($1.01 million) Nobel Prize award, and Mourou and Strickland will share the other half.

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