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Spielmann Receives Research Award

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JENA, Germany, April 5, 2011 — Prof. Dr. Christian Spielmann of Friedrich Schiller University Jena has received the 2010 Thuringian Research Award for his work developing methods to generate ultrashort x-ray pulses that have paved the way for observing the motion of atoms on their natural time scale.

“It is a very special honor,” Spielmann said, emphasizing that his whole team also deserved the accolade. “I appreciate the recognition of our work, acknowledging the merit of our research in a very competitive environment.”

The award is worth €12,500. On the same occasion, two research teams from Jena and Hermsdorf received prizes in the applied research category.

A measurement tool that provides sufficiently high temporal and spatial resolution is required to take “snapshots” of the motion of individual atoms.

“For this, we use the time-resolved x-ray spectroscopy,” Spielmann said. Capturing the movements of atoms or molecules in an image without blurring requires exposure times measured in femtoseconds.

To penetrate the microcosm of the building blocks of matter, the applied radiation used must have a short wavelength. “Already in the late 19th century, Ernst Abbe had shown the wavelengths of radiation must be comparable to the smallest features to be observed,” Spielmann explained. The exact position of atoms in molecules or solids cannot be captured by taking a picture with visible light. “However, with x-rays — which have a shorter wavelength than visible light — it is possible.”

Science currently is pursuing two different strategies for the generation of intense ultrashort x-ray pulses. “On the one hand, large-scale facilities are constructed, such as the x-ray laser at DESY in Hamburg,” he said. Spielmann, however, who has researched and taught at Jena University since 2008, is pursuing another approach: “We generate intense x-ray pulses on a small laboratory scale.”

The starting point is ultrashort laser pulses in the visible part of the spectrum. If the intense ultrashort laser pulse is focused in a gas jet, its wavelength is shifted toward shorter wavelengths. The shortest x-ray pulses can be generated efficiently using the methods optimized in recent years by Jena physicists.

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Apr 2011
awardsBusinessChristian SpielmannDESYEuropeFriedrich Schiller University JenaimagingThuringian Research Awardtime-resolved x-ray spectroscopyultrashort x-ray pulseslasers

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