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Awards Honour Successful Laser Applications – and Ways to Get There

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Jörg Schwartz,

Two relatively young yet prestigious awards honouring achievements in laser applications and research, the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis and the Zukunftspreis, were awarded to winners from Germany and the US at a ceremony at the headquarters of the Trumpf group, attended by a crowd of 250 guests from politics, science and industry.

Leibinger-Award.jpgThe €20,000 first prize of the innovation award went to four individuals from Robert Bosch GmbH. Dr. Jens König, Dr. Thorsten Bauer, Dr. Markus Willert and Ulrich Graf won for introducing micromachining with ultrafast lasers in industrial mass production.

The second prize went to Dr. Richard Sandstrom and Dr. William Partlo of Cymer in San Diego, Calif., USA, honouring their work on excimer lasers for manufacturing microprocessors and memory chips.

The third prize was equally awarded to Dr. Cary Gunn, co-founder of Luxtera Inc. in Carlsbad, Calif., USA, and Dr. Jürgen Czarske and co-workers from Dresden, Germany’s Technical University for development work in silicon photonics and new laser velocity and distance sensors, respectively.

Biennial award

The Innovationspreis, or innovation award, biennially honours outstanding advancements in applied laser technology. It was first awarded in 2000 and was initially limited to lasers in production, the main interest of founder Prof. Dr. Berthold Leibinger, at the time president and now chairman of the Trumpf group, a supplier of industrial lasers and machinery. The inaugural award ceremony coincided with Leibinger’s 70th birthday, and the story goes that this was not accidental. It helped him to have technology and innovation, rather than himself, in the spotlight.

From the start, the prize has been offered without geographical limitations, and the technical scope already had been expanded for the second award in 2002, when medical laser applications were added. Since 2006, applications and nominations from all fields of laser technology have been welcomed by the jury, which includes names like physics Nobel Prize winner Theodor Hänsch and former Leibinger laureate Ursula Keller, a professor at Zürich’s ETH.

The key to winning the innovation prize is “presenting an idea that is not only novel but also has proved to be marketable and application-relevant already,” explains Sven Ederer, project manager of the Leibinger foundation. However, he admits that there tends to be a bit of a dilemma here because both criteria hardly can be met at the same time, and most applications are stronger in one aspect or the other.

Furthermore, because of the high-quality submissions from early-stage research that does not yet meet the application requirements, the Zukunftspreis (future prize) was created. Started as a special prize and awarded to Caltech’s Jeffrey Kimble for cavity quantum electrodynamics in 2006, it has grown as a separate, forward-looking laser technology award. Unlike the innovation prize, it is not chosen from submissions and nominations. Instead, the jury chooses what it thinks will make lasers have an impact in the future. This year, this was found to be the case for Prof. Dr. Sunney Xie of Harvard University who pioneered nonlinear molecular imaging and single-molecule dynamics.

The future of the prize will include building on its success and working further on its mission, as Ederer sees it, which is spreading the fascination and capabilities of laser technology to a wider audience, not only within the photonics community but particularly to the general public. The next ceremony, likely as rewarding and entertaining as this year’s, is going to take place in 2010.

So don’t just sit there if you have a bright idea regarding how lasers can change real lives – applications are accepted at any time.

Jan 2009
Euro NewsEuropeindustrialindustrylaser applicationsNewsscienceSensors & Detectors

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