Federico Capasso receives Humboldt Research Award

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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 Professor 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.