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Nobel Prize laureates George E. Smith, left, and Willard S. Boyle chat during a press conference at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, on Monday. They share the physics award with Charles K. Kao. ((Scanpix Sweden/Bertil Ericson/Associated Press))

Canadian scientist Willard S. Boyle received the Nobel for physics Thursday, a prize he's sharing with two other physicists honoured for their work in optics.

Boyle, 85, shares the award with George E. Smith and Charles Kao for their "groundbreaking achievements" in physics. The Nobel committee announced the prizes in October and gave them out Thursday.

Boyle and Smith, 79, invented the first charge-coupled device, which is a semiconductor circuit that transforms light into electric signals that produce a large number of image points, or pixels, in a short time. The invention "revolutionized photography," the Nobel citation said. The technology is also commonly used in medical imaging.

"Digital photography has become an irreplaceable tool in many fields of research. The CCD has provided new possibilities to visualize the previously unseen. It has given us crystal clear images of distant places in our universe as well as the depths of the oceans," the citation said.

Kao, 75, calculated how to transmit light over long distances via optical glass fibres, which allow global broadband communication.

Boyle was born in Amherst, N.S., and completed a PhD in physics at McGill University. He taught physics at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., before joining Bell Labs in New Jersey.

Boyle holds dual Canadian and American citizenship, and Smith is American. Kao holds British and American citizenship.