When the Deutscher Zukunftspreis is awarded by Germany’s Federal President, it is not only engineers and scientists who watch the ceremony in Berlin with bated breath – but also the world of business. This is because the renowned prize, which is endowed with 250,000 euros, is awarded to researchers whose innovations also offer great economic potential. And this year is no exception.
Two of the three teams nominated for the 2013 prize work in the area of laser technology. The first, led by Jens König, has developed a process by which ultra-short laser pulses are used in the machining of materials. Short-pulse lasers allow laser energy to be used in a particularly concentrated form, which means for example that extremely fine structures can be cut into glass or plastic without heating up the surrounding material. The project is a cooperative venture between Robert Bosch GmbH, the University of Jena, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena and the company Firma Trumpf Laser.
Experts from the company Coherent LaserSystems in Göttingen, on the other hand, have succeeded in applying series of extremely thin polysilicon layers onto glass plates. This technology is used nowadays to mass-produce high-resolution mobile screens all over the world. Once again, a key role is played by short-pulse lasers: they allow silicon to be crystallized within fractions of a second without causing heat-damage to the glass surface.
The third nominated group is made up of specialists from the University of Munich and Philips Technologie GmbH. They have created new synthetic materials based on silicon, nitrogen and the element europium, which allows LEDs with previously unattained luminescent characteristics to be manufactured. The solid-state luminescent materials combine the properties of minerals with the lifespan of high-performance ceramics and emit an extremely pleasant white light that is environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient.
Awarding of the Deutscher Zukunftspreis on 4 December 2013