Karsten Danzmann receives The Körber European Science Prize 2017

Max Planck director and professor at Leibniz Universität Hannover honored for the development of key technologies for gravitational-wave detection

May 31, 2017

Prof. Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute; AEI) in Hannover, Germany, and director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover receives The Körber European Science Prize which comes with 750,000 € of prize money. The Körber European Science Prize is presented annually, honoring outstanding single scientists working in Europe for their promising research projects. With the Körber Prize 2017 the foundation honors Danzmann’s central role in the development of technologies which were crucial to the first direct detection of gravitational waves in September 2015 by the US Advanced LIGO detectors. This confirmed a 100 year old prediction by Albert Einstein and ushered in a new era of astronomy.

The Körber Foundation announced the award for Danzmann today in a press release. The Körber European Science Prize 2017 will be presented on 7 September 2017 in the large festival hall of Hamburg City Hall.

“Karsten Danzmann opened a new door for the understanding of the Universe. It was the unanimous verdict of the Körber Prize committees that the key technologies developed by him made the first direct detection of gravitational waves possible in the first place. They combine not only unexpected possibilities for fundamental astrophysical research, but also direct applications in, for example, geodesy satellites and data communication,” says Matthias Mayer, head of the science department of the Körber Foundation. “Karsten Danzmann and his team impressively prove which outstanding achievements the European research area can achieve.”

“I am very happy about this great honor and recognition of my accomplishments,” says Danzmann. “The award money will be invested into further development of gravitational-wave detectors and will therefore benefit the global research community.”

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.

Quantum mechanical tricks 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.

With the Körber Prize award money Danzmann will further refine measurement technologies for the third generation of gravitational-wave detectors. This will employ quantum mechanically entangled photons which will allow even better control of the quantum noise.

Detecting gravitational waves in space with LISA

Since the early 1990s Danzmann also plays a leading research role in a planned 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.

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. 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.

Körber Prize

The Körber European Science Prize is presented annually, honoring outstanding single scientists working in Europe for their promising research projects. With the 750.000 € prize money the Körber Foundation promotes research in life and physical sciences. Search committees with top scientists from all over Europe identify qualified candidates. The selection is then made by a Trustee Committee. A personal application is not allowed. The prize is awarded to excellent and innovative research projects that show great potential for possible application and international impact. Körber Prize winners included six scientists who were later awarded the Nobel Prize.

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