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The Swedish Academy-which awards the prize-said the trio's work led to "groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics".

The Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences on Tuesday awarded half the 9 million kronor ($1.39 million) prize to Arthur Ashkin of the United States and the other half will be shared by Gerard Mourou of France and Canada's Donna Strickland.

Optical tweezers trap a tiny object by using focused laser beams to exert very small forces on it.

American Ashkin of Bell Laboratories in the United States won half of the prize while Frenchman Mourou, who also has US citizenship, and Canadian Strickland shared the other half.

The last woman to win the physics prize, German-born American physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer, took the prize for her discoveries about the nuclei of atoms.

Asked what her first reaction to the news was, Strickland told the press conference announcing the prize, "First of all, you have to think it's insane, so that was my first thought".

Her former PhD adviser, Dr Mourou, said he found it hard to describe his emotions at winning the Nobel Prize.

A reporter asked the professor what it felt like to be the third woman in history to win the physics prize. Ashkin always had a dream: Imagine if beams of light could be put to work and made to move objects.

According to The Nobel Prize, Strickland and Mourou "paved the way towards the shortest and most intense laser pulses created by humankind".

The technique, known as chirped pulse amplification or CPA, can use a specialized combination of prisms, optical fibers and mirrors to increase the peak strength of a burst of laser energy.

Three scientists from the United States, France and Canada won this year's Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for their pioneering work in the field of laser research.

The three scientists have been awarded for advances in laser physics. Although Ashkin, in the mid 1980s, originally meant to use the technique to manipulate atoms, he soon moved onto larger particles and then biological objects, including viruses and living cells.

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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.