American scientists Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Germany's Stefan Hell won the 2014 Nobel Prize for chemistry for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy, the award-giving body said on Wednesday.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarding the 8 million crown ($1.1 million) prize said the three scientists' research had made it possible to study molecular processes in real time.
"Due to their achievements the optical microscope can now peer into the nanoworld," the academy said in a statement.
Betzig works at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, United States, while Moerner is professor at Stanford University. Hell is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany.
Chemistry was the third of this year's Nobel prizes. The prize is named after dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel and has been awarded since 1901 for achievements in science, literature and peace in accordance with his will.
The chemistry prize has often lived in the shadow of physics and its star scientists such as Albert Einstein, though it was the field that was arguably closest to the heart of Nobel's own work developing dynamite and other explosives.
As winners of the chemistry prize, the laureates enter an exclusive club of researchers such as nuclear pioneer Ernest Rutherford and Linus Pauling, the only person to win two Nobels on his own - for chemistry in 1954 and peace in 1962.
(1 US dollar = 7.2052 Swedish crown)
(Reporting by Sven Nordenstam, Writing by Niklas Pollard, Eding by Simon Johnson and Angus MacSwan)