Cambridge, Mass., July 9, 2010 - Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has been awarded the 2010 Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis (the future prize), an international award for excellent research on the application or generation of laser light.
The prize, consisting of ?30,000, will be presented during ceremony held in Ditingen, Germany on July 9, 2010. As part of the celebrations Professor Theodor W. Hänsch, co-winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, will give a laudatory address of Capasso's contributions.
Past recipients of the honor include Xiaoliang Sunney Xie of Harvard (2008) and H. Jeffrey Kimble of the California Institute of Technology (2006).
The jury cited Capasso's contributions "to laser technology with [his] research on the quantum cascade laser."
Quantum cascade (QC) lasers were invented and first demonstrated by Capasso and his group at Bell Labs in 1994. By varying the thickness of the layers scientists can select the wavelength at which a QC laser will emit light, custom designing it for a specific application.
The range of applications of QC laser based chemical sensors is very broad, including pollution monitoring, medical diagnostics such as breath analysis, and applications for homeland security. Since joining Harvard in 2003 Capasso and his group have continued to advance the state-of-the art of QCLs by achieving major milestones such as high power continuous wave lasers for deflecting heat-seeking missiles, miniature laser spectrometers on a chip for the fast and ultrasensitive detection of an enormous number of trace gases and laser that emit multiple highly collimated beams in different directions.
Capasso received the doctor of Physics degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Rome, Italy, in 1973 and after doing research in fiber optics at Fondazione Bordoni in Rome, joined Bell Labs in 1976. He joined Harvard in January 2003.
He has been widely honored for his interdisciplinary research in fields such as materials research, solid state physics, electronics, and photonics. His honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In 2005 he received, jointly with Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek (MIT) and Anton Zeilinger (University of Vienna), the King Faisal International Prize for Science for his research on quantum cascade lasers. The citation called him "one the most creative and influential applied physicists in the world."
On behalf of the American Physical Society, he was awarded the 2004 Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science for "seminal contributions to the invention and demonstration of the quantum cascade laser and the elucidation of its physics, which bridges quantum electronics, solid-state physics, and materials science."
This past April Capasso was also honored as part of LaserFest, a yearlong celebration to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the laser. He was honored as being among the Laser Luminaries by SPIE, an international society advancing an interdisciplinary approach to the science and application of light. (Watch a video interview here: http://spie.org/x40019.xml?ArticleID=x40019).