The Körber European Science Prize 2011 has been awarded to Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen.
The Prize is endowed with 750,00 Euro and is awarded to an outstanding scientist working in Europe on particularly promising projects every year. The prizewinner is selected by an international trustee committee chaired by Prof. Dr. Peter Gruss, President of the Max Planck Society.
Stefan Hell receives the award for his pioneering discoveries in the field of optics.
Stefan Hell constructed high-resolution optical microscopes that increase the resolution multiple times which was previously considered impossible. His trick: he marks the specimens to be examined with fluorescent dyes, illuminates them with a focused laser beam and neutralizes specifically the excited fluorescence with a second laser beam at the edge of the circle.
How deeply can we penetrate into the details of the visible world with optical microscopes? Previously, the law formulated by Ernst Abbe in 1873 was regarded as the absolute lower limit. Objects lying closer to each other than 200 millionths of a millimetre, i.e. about one two hundredth of a hair's breadth, can no longer be distinguished from one another. The reason for this is the wave nature of light, the half wavelength of which roughly corresponds to those 200 nanometres. The STED microscopy which the physicist Stefan Hell invented and developed to application readiness, allows scientists to gain insights into the nano world far beyond this limit. Biologists and physiologists in particular value this breakthrough, because living cells or tissue can only be observed using optical microscopes. In 2008, for instance, neurophysiologists using the new resolution of only a few dozen nanometres succeeded in visualising the movements of tiny synaptic components for the first time. In addition, the concept underlying STED microscopy opened up new prospects for the further development of optical storage media.
Curriculum Vitae of Stefan Hell
Stefan Hell has been a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen since 2002.
Born in Banat, Romania in 1962, he studied physics at the University of Heidelberg, where he also did his PhD. Following research stations at the EMBL in Heidelberg and the universities of Turku and Oxford, in addition to his work in Göttingen he became a division head at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.
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