Federico Capasso receives Humboldt Research Award

Award recognizes lifetime achievements and facilitates international scientific collaboration

June 5, 2013

Cambridge, Mass. - June 5, 2013 - 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 selected to receive the Humboldt Research Award.

The prestigious award is granted by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to "outstanding researchers at the peak of their careers... whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future."

Capasso is best known for his development of the quantum cascade laser. His research in nanoscale science and technology has also encompassed a broad range of topics including band-structure engineering of semiconductor nanostructures and quantum devices, the investigation of attractive and repulsive Casimir forces, plasmonics, and flat optics based on metasurfaces.

Capasso was nominated for the honor by Prof. Theodor Hänsch, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist at the Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik in Germany. Hänsch is renowned worldwide for his development of the frequency comb technique—an extremely precise way to measure frequency—which, among diverse applications, has improved the accuracy of atomic clocks.

Through the award, Capasso and Tobias Mansuripur, a Harvard graduate student in physics, have been invited to participate in collaborative research projects in Hänsch's laboratory during periodic visits to Germany. The group hopes to use quantum cascade lasers to extend frequency combs to the mid-infrared portion of the spectrum.

Mansuripur said, “I am very excited about this opportunity to collaborate with a world-leading scientist on frequency combs, with the goal of extending this technology to the mid-infrared, the 'molecular fingerprint' region, which will likely open up new frontiers in high-precision spectroscopy and its applications."

Capasso is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His awards include the IEEE Sarnoff Award in Electronics (1991), the Materials Research Society Medal (1995), the Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute (1997), the Rank Prize in Optoelectronics (1998), the Optical Society Wood Prize (2001), the IEEE Edison Medal (2004), the APS Arthur Schawlow Prize in Laser Science (2004), the King Faisal Prize (2005), the Berthold Leibinger Zukunft Prize (2010), the Julius Springer Prize in Applied Physics (2010), the Jan Czochralski Award for lifetime achievements in Materials Science (2011), the European Physical Society's Prize for Applied Aspects of Quantum Electronics and Optics (2013), and the SPIE Gold Medal (2013).

Capasso was formally recognized on June 5 at the annual meeting of the Humboldt Foundation, where he also attended a special reception with the president of Germany.

About the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 26,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 130 countries worldwide—including 49 Nobel Prize winners.