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 Planck 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.