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Swiss based physicist Ursula Keller has won a 2018 European Inventor Award Lifetime Achievement Prize for her ongoing work on ultra-fast lasers.
Over her thirty-year career to date, Ursula Keller developed compact, efficient and powerful laser designs, which are instrumental in fields ranging from scientific research to telecommunications and consumer electronics.
Prof. Keller's most famous invention was of the SESAM mirror in 1992, a convenient and practical method for turning continuous laser light into ultra-fast laser pulses. Her method is now the leading technology for commercial ultra-fast lasers that are used in many manufacturing and medical applications. The global market for ultra-fast lasers is expected to reach a value of EUR 8.3 billion by 2023.
Concerning her atypical career trajectory - from applied research to a professorship - Ursula Keller said: "Normally you do things the other way around: start with fundamental research and then move to applied. But it was easier for me as a female physicist to establish myself with a technical breakthrough first and then move to a university setting where I could work to push the performance even further."
Ursula Keller is also a two time ERC grant winner. Her first ERC Advanced Grant was awarded in 2013 for research based on the use of one of her own creations, the "Attoclock", one of the world's most sensitive time-measuring devices. This year Prof. Keller was awarded a second ERC grant, for her project One-MIX. It proposes to develop single-source dual-comb lasers for mid-infrared spectroscopy, potentially enabling many new applications in science and industry, such as environment, safety, pharma, and health.
More information about Ursula Keller's work
European Inventor Award
The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2006, it honours individual inventors and teams of inventors whose pioneering work provides answers to some of the biggest challenges of our times. Winners had to have been granted at least one European patent for their inventions.
Full EPO press release on the awards