Manish Garg, an Indian scientist working at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart (MPI-FKF), Germany, has won the prestigious Max Auwarter Prize of the Austrian Physical Society for his breakthrough in microscopy. The award, which is open to researchers under 35, and includes a cash prize of €10,000, was presented on September 28 at the 71st session of the Society.
In order to better understand fast chemical reactions, it is necessary to study the behaviour of electrons, in both space and time, as precisely as possible. Modern microscopy techniques offer almost unlimited possibilities. But very high resolutions are possible either in space or in time, not both simultaneously.
Mapping electron dynamics in molecules is essential to understand biological processes such as photosynthesis, and for the development of solar cells or new types of electronic components. Images captured by existing methods have been not only difficult to reproduce but they have sometimes been contradictory.
By combining techniques of tunnelling microscopy and laser spectroscopy, Garg and others at the MPI-FKF surmounted these obstacles. With the new ultra-fast microscope, the movement of electrons in molecules can now be observed and captured on film. The work was reported in Nature Photonics early this year.