Mourou and Strickland share a quarter of the prize each "for their method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses", the Nobel committee 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.
These became the standard for high-intensity lasers, for example used in millions of corrective eye surgeries per year.
Three scientists from the United States, France and Canada have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for advances in laser physics. And, for the first time in more than half a century, a woman - Donna Strickland - is one of the winners. In 1963 Maria Goeppert-Mayer was recognized for her work on the structure of nuclei.
Dr. Stickland, who was born in Guelph, Ont., conducted her award-winning research while still at PhD student in 1985 at the University of Rochester in NY.
Physics is the second of this year's crop of prizes and comes after the medicine prize was awarded on Monday (Oct 1) for discoveries about how to harness and manipulate the immune system to fight cancer.
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After winning the award, Donna Strickland said, "We need to celebrate women physicists because they're out there..."
Strickland says she was left in disbelief when the call from Stockholm came early this morning notifying her of the win, saying she thought it was "crazy".
In 2017, the academy released figures indicating that since since the prize was founded in 1901, women have won 49 out of 923 prizes. The academy said their 1985 article on the technique was "revolutionary".
At 96, Ashkin is the oldest person to win a Nobel Prize. But the Nobel Prize has made special efforts to identify women scientists to be nominated for the prize.
Ashkin is the oldest ever Nobel prize victor - but the 96-year-old is still busy with fresh research.
On Monday, two immunologists, James Allison of the U.S. and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, won this year's Nobel Medicine Prize for research into how the body's natural defences can fight cancer.