MPQ congratulates Ferenc Krausz on the Frontiers of Knowledge Award

The award honours his pioneering work in the field of attosecond physics

February 23, 2023

Along with two other researchers, Ferenc Krausz, Director and head of the Attosecond Physics Division at MPQ, receives the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the basic sciences category. Since 2008, the Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) Foundation annually awards the 400,000 euro prize in eight different categories to outstanding scientists.

Together with Anne L'Huillier and Paul Corkum, Ferenc Krausz is this year’s winner of the Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the basic sciences category. The award, which is presented annually by the BBVA Foundation, honours the three scientists’ groundbreaking research in the field of attosecond physics. The trio had shown "how the motion of electrons in atoms, molecules and solids can be observed and controlled with ultrashort light pulses on time scales of about a hundred attoseconds", the jury explained its decision.

One attosecond equals the billionth of a billionth of  second and is the time unit of the microscopic world. For a long time, there was no corresponding technology to observe or even control movements on this time scale. With his experiments on the generation of ultrashort x-ray pulses, Ferenc Krausz made a significant contribution to enabling electron movements to be monitored in real-time today. The methods of attosecond physics can be compared with conventional photography. "If you want to photograph the movement of something fast - for example, a bullet being shot from a gun - you take a series of snapshots and then reconstruct how the bullet hits the wall," Krausz explains. The same applies to attosecond physics: the light pulses of the laser correspond to the shutter release of a camera, which closes and opens again. The images become sharper the shorter the light pulses are.

MPQ colleague and chairman of the jury committee, Theodor Hänsch, is pleased and emphasises the importance of Krausz’ research: "It is a big step to know that what we can imagine theoretically can now be tested experimentally. This interplay between experiment and theory inspires many ideas." In this context, attosecond physics opens the way for many important application areas, especially in the field of information processing and early cancer diagnosis.

Professor Ferenc Krausz has been head of the Attosecond Physics Division at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics since 2003, and Professor of Experimental Physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich since 2004. He has already received many awards for his pioneering work in the field of attosecond physics. Among others, he received the renowned Wolf Prize and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation (DFG).


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