3 scientists win Nobel Prize in physics for laser inventions

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The Nobel Prize medal. Credit robynmack96/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Frenchman Gerard Mourou of the Ecole Polytechnique and University of MI will share half of the NZ$1.5 million the prize carries with Ms Strickland; Mr Ashkin gets the other half.

France's President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to the French co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, saying the award highlights French research and its applications.

Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo in Ontario won part of the USA $1.01 million prize, which she shared with Gerard Mourou of France and Arthur Ashkin of the United States. Eva Lindroth, member of the Class for Physics at The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua in an interview after the announcement.

"This new tool allowed Ashkin to realize an old dream of science fiction", the press release states, "using the radiation pressure of light to move physical objects".

Strickland and Mourou helped develop short and intense laser pulses that can be used medically, including laser eye surgery.

In 1987 he discovered the device could be used to examine and manipulate living bacteria, and later viruses and other living cells, without damaging them.

Mourou and Strickland's technique is known as chirped pulse amplification, CPA.

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On Tuesday, Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo, Canada, became only the third woman to win a Nobel prize for physics, after Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963. "We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there ..."

Jim Al-Khalili, professor of theoretical physics at Britain's University of Surrey, said on Twitter it was "delicious" that Strickland had won the Nobel prize just days after Strumia's "misogynistic" comments.

Using an ingenious approach, [Mourou and Strickland] succeeded in creating ultrashort high-intensity laser pulses without destroying the amplifying material.

Physics is the second of this year's crop of prizes and comes after the medicine prize was awarded on Monday.

The breakthrough came with the work of prizewinners Mr Mourou and Ms Strickland, he said. They first stretched out the laser pulse in time by several orders of magnitude, thereby reducing their peak power, then passed the stretched pulse through an amplifier, and finally compressed the pulse again in time to produce a short pulse with much enhanced power. With the Nobel, Donna Strickland became the third female recipient of the prize in physics. "Really? I thought there might've been more", Strickland replied.

The award is worth a total of nine million Swedish kronor (NZ$1,516,421.91). And, for the first time in more than half a century, a woman - Donna Strickland - is one of the winners.

2017 - Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish earned the award for the detection of gravitational waves.

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