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Max Planck Director Wins Innovation Award for Light Microscopy Work

Photonics.com
Nov 2006
This year's 10th annual German Innovation Award -- the German President's prize for technology -- has been awarded to Göttingen-based scientist Stefan W. Hell. The director of the Max StefanHell.jpgPlanck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry received the 250,000 euro (approximately $329,000) prize for his project "Light Microscopy with Unprecedented Resolution". The awards ceremony took place in Berlin on Nov. 23, with the prize presented by German President Horst Köhler. Four research projects were nominated, all of which produced "outstanding technical, engineering or scientific innovations". Professor Hell, author of a chapter in the Springer Handbook of Lasers and Optics, is the first scientist to overcome the 130-year-old diffraction resolution barrier in a fluorescence microscope by proving that resolution is not limited by light wavelength. Hell and his colleagues circumvented "Abbe's law" by allowing resolutions down to a molecular scale and greatly enhancing a standard scientific procedure. An electron microscope can't be used for viewing live material, and even under the best light microscope, all structures under 200 nm -- such as protein molecules -- blur "into mush", Hell said. He achieved resolutions of 15-20 nm using STED (stimulated emission depletion) technology. As a result of his research, a newly developed microscope is now on the market that can investigate life on the molecular scale and possibly reveal more about disease. The three other projects nominated for the Innovation Award this year were a night vision assistant for cars, a brain pacemaker for Parkinson patients and a laser appliance capable of dissecting and isolating parts of cells.


GLOSSARY
diffraction
As a wavefront of light passes by an opaque edge or through an opening, secondary weaker wavefronts are generated, apparently originating at that edge. These secondary wavefronts will interfere with the primary wavefront as well as with each other to form various diffraction patterns.  
electron
A charged elementary particle of an atom; the term is most commonly used in reference to the negatively charged particle called a negatron. Its mass at rest is me = 9.109558 x 10-31 kg, its charge is 1.6021917 x 10-19 C, and its spin quantum number is 1/2. Its positive counterpart is called a positron, and possesses the same characteristics, except for the reversal of the charge.
microscope
An instrument consisting essentially of a tube 160 mm long, with an objective lens at the distant end and an eyepiece at the near end. The objective forms a real aerial image of the object in the focal plane of the eyepiece where it is observed by the eye. The overall magnifying power is equal to the linear magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnifying power of the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be replaced by a film to photograph the primary image, or a positive or negative relay...
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
resolution
1. In optics, the ability of a lens system to reproduce the points, lines and surfaces in an object as separate entities in the image. 2. The minimum adjustment increment effectively achievable by a positioning mechanism. 3. In image processing, the accuracy with which brightness, spatial parameters and frame rate are divided into discrete levels.
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