King Faisal Prize for Würzburg physicist

January 17, 2017

"Professor Laurens Molenkamp has significantly contributed to the experimental field of spintronics. His work includes ground-breaking methods for creating and manipulating spin-polarized charge-carrier states in semiconductors. Moreover, Professor Molenkamp has experimentally confirmed the quantum spin-Hall effect, thereby spurring the development of topological insulators."

With this explanatory statement, the King Faisal Foundation (KFF) recently awarded the King Faisal International Prize in the "Science" category to Professor Laurens Molenkamp. The award comes with a cash endowment of US$ 200,000. Molenkamp shares the prize with Professor Daniel Loss of the Department of Physics at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Keyword "spintronics"

The science of spintronics is about the transport and manipulation of electrons with a specific spin orientation in semiconductors. Possible applications range from novel components such as transistors to memory cells and quantum computers.

Laurens Molenkamp is considered one of the fathers of semiconductor spintronics. In 1999, he was the first researcher worldwide to prove the possibility of electrical spin injection in semiconductors, thereby opening up the field of spintronics for experimental research.

2007 saw Molenkamp implement topological insulators for the first time. These materials are insulating on the inside and spin-polarised metallic conducting at the surface. Since then, this novel material class has been the focus of intensive research as it is expected to yield further progress in spintronics: Topological insulators should allow novel computer chips based on quantum mechanical principles to be implemented in the future.

Multiple awards for the physicist

Molenkamp received several prestigious international awards for his top research including the Europhysics Prize 2010, the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize of the American Physical Society 2012, the Physics Frontiers Prize 2013, the Leibniz Prize 2014 and most recently the Stern-Gerlach Medal, the most prestigious Award of Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft to be presented next March.

King Faisal International Prize

The King Faisal International Prize was founded in 1979 by the King Faisal Foundation. Each year it is presented in recognition of excellence in five categories: Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, Science and Medicine. The prize owes its name to King Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, the son of the nation's founder. It is awarded during a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of the King of Saudi Arabia.

According to the foundation, the winners are selected "during a strictly regulated procedure following international standards", which is backed by the fact that many winners of the King Faisal Prize were later honoured with the Nobel Prize.

University of Würzburg

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