Otto Hahn Prize 2017 for Karsten Danzmann

The Max Planck director and professor at Leibniz Universität Hannover will be honored for his pioneering research for the direct detection of gravitational waves

July 13, 2017

Prof. Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover and director of the Institut für Gravitationsphysik of Leibniz Universität Hannover, will receive the prize on 2nd of November 2017 in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt am Main. The award is endowed with €50,000 and comes with a gold medal. The Otto Hahn Prize is awarded jointly by the city of Frankfurt, the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (Society of German Chemists) and the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society).

The three organizations announced the prize for Danzmann in a joint press release today and emphasize the central role of the team around Karsten Danzmann  “who is considered one of the pioneers for the discovery of gravitational waves”.

“I am very happy about the Otto Hahn Prize,” says the awardee. “It is an appreciation of the technology development for the LIGO instruments at the gravitational-wave detector GEO600.”

“Danzmann’s research into novel interferometric systems with stabilized laser sources, signal-enhancing interferometer topologies, and extremely seismically isolated ultra-precise mirrors created the experimental prerequisites for the first direct detection of gravitational waves by the US LIGO detectors on 14th of September 2015,” emphasize Prof. Dr. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, president of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (German Physical Society) and Prof. Dr. Thisbe Lindhorst, president of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (Society of German Chemistst).

Technology development at GEO600

As part of the GEO Collaboration, a team of Max Planck, Leibniz Universität Hannover and UK researchers, Danzmann has been operating the GEO600 gravitational-wave detector south of Hannover, Germany, since the mid 1990s. GEO600 is a development center for novel and advanced technologies in the international gravitational-wave research community.

Many key technologies that enable the unprecedented sensitivity of LIGO and its discoveries have been developed and tested by GEO600. AEI researchers together with the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. also developed, built, and installed the high-power laser systems at the heart of the LIGO instruments. Crucial improvements in the optical measurement principle such as power and signal recycling where first demonstrated in GEO600 as a large gravitational-wave detector.

Paving the way for the future of gravitational-wave astronomy

GEO600 is the only gravitational-wave detector worldwide using “squeezed light” to mitigate fundamental quantum noise effects and improve its sensitivity at high frequencies. In the future all ground-based gravitational-wave detectors will use squeezed-light sources similar to that at GEO600 to further improve their sensitivity.

Detecting gravitational waves in space with LISA

Since the early 1990s Danzmann also has been playing a leading research role in a gravitational-wave detector called LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), which will be launched as a mission of the European Space Agency ESA in 2034. Three satellites will span an equilateral triangle of laser arms, each 2.5 million kilometers long, and will detect low-frequency gravitational waves entirely inaccessible on Earth. Together with an international team, Danzmann showed in 2016 that the technology required for LISA works. On 20th of June 2017, ESA selected LISA as the L3 mission in its Cosmic Vision Programme.

Awards for a leading scientist

Karsten Danzmann has been presented with the Fritz Behrens Foundation Science Prize 2016 and the Lower Saxony Science Award 2016. In September he will be awarded The Körber European Science Prize 2017. Together with Bruce Allen, director at the AEI Hannover and Alessandra Buonanno, director at the AEI Potsdam-Golm, he received the Lower Saxony State Prize 2016. As part of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration he was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and the Gruber Cosmology Prize.

Otto Hahn Prize

The Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh, Society of German Chemists) and the other member institutions of the Deutscher Zentralausschuss für Chemie (German Central Committee for Chemistry), the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG, German Physical Society) and the city of Frankfurt am Main established a new “Otto Hahn Prize” in spring 2005. It resulted from the merger of two earlier prizes, the “Otto Hahn Prize for Chemistry and Physics”, awarded for the first time in 1955 by the GDCh and the German Central Committee for Chemistry, and the “Otto Hahn Prize of the city of Frankfurt am Main”, awarded for the first time in 1970. The prize aims at promoting science especially in chemistry, physics, and applied engineering by recognizing outstanding scientific accomplishments. It is awarded alternately biannually to awardees from physics and chemistry.

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