The CNRS gold medal, one of the most prestigious French scientific awards, distinguishes this year the Franco-Norwegian physico-chemist Thomas Ebbesen. His work in nanosciences, which is highly interdisciplinary, covers fields as diverse as the sciences of carbonaceous materials, optics, nano-photonics and molecular chemistry. His discoveries have notably led to technological breakthroughs in optoelectronics, for optical communications and biosensors. This professor from the University of Strasbourg headed the Institute of Supramolecular Science and Engineering (ISIS, CNRS / University of Strasbourg) until 2012. He is now director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Strasbourg (USIAS).
Thomas Ebbesen was born on January 30, 1954 in Oslo, Norway. A graduate of Oberlin College (United States) and Pierre and Marie Curie University, he holds a doctorate in physical photochemistry obtained in 1980. He joined the following year Notre Dame University in Indiana (States United) and is developing collaborations with Japan, in particular with the University of Tsukuba. In 1988, he moved to Japan in the research laboratory of NEC, an industrial giant in IT and telecommunications. In 1996, Jean-Marie Lehn, Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1987, convinced him to join him at the Institute of supramolecular science and engineering (ISIS, CNRS / University of Strasbourg). He became a professor at the University of Strasbourg, while continuing to maintain strong links with the NEC laboratories in Japan and the United States, at Princeton. In 2005, he took over the management of ISIS, succeeding Jean-Marie Lehn, which he transferred to Paolo Samori in 2012. He is today director of the International Center for Research in Chemistry (1) (ICFRC) and , since 2012, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Strasbourg (USIAS).
An international reference figure, Thomas Ebbesen is the author of fundamental and pioneering discoveries in the field of nanosciences. His highly interdisciplinary work is recognized in different scientific communities and has given rise to reference articles (2). They are at the origin of technological, scientific and conceptual breakthroughs.
During his scientific career, Thomas Ebbesen has invested in several themes. He has notably worked on carbon materials, nanotubes and fullerenes. For example, he has developed a method for the large-scale synthesis of carbon nanotubes and has studied the physical, chemical and mechanical properties of these materials. In 1998, he demonstrated a new optical phenomenon: extraordinary transmission. He discovers that light can pass with great efficiency through apertures smaller than its own wavelength, contrary to what was accepted at the time.
More recently, Thomas Ebbesen has been interested in molecular systems in strong light-matter coupling and demonstrates for the first time that one can accelerate or decelerate chemical reactions by making reactants interact with the electromagnetic fluctuations of an optical cavity and that 'one can selectively favor a given product (3). These surprising results gave birth to a new field known as “polaritonic chemistry” which is arousing growing interest in the world.
In addition to his academic work, Thomas Ebbesen's involvement in the promotion of research led him to file more than 30 patents and to participate, as a co-founder, in the creation of the start-up n-TEC, specialized in carbon compounds.
Member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters since 2003, Thomas Ebbesen was elected foreign member of the Academy of Sciences in 2009, and of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium in 2011. His career has been marked by several awards. remarkable: he received the France Télécom 2005 prize from the Académie des sciences and was awarded two ERC Advanced grants in 2008 and 2018. In 2011, the Europhysics prize rewarded his work on carbon nanotubes and he also obtained the Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize from the European Physical Society in 2009. Finally in 2014, Thomas Ebbesen received the Kavli Prize for Nanoscience, the highest distinction in this field, for his work on sub-length optics of wave and the discovery of the extraordinary transmission phenomenon.
The CNRS gold medal will be awarded to him on October 24 in Paris during a ceremony dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the CNRS.
The CNRS gold medal is one of the highest French scientific distinctions. Every year, since its creation in 1954, it has distinguished all the work of one or more scientific personalities who have made an exceptional contribution to the dynamism and influence of French research. The latest gold medal winners are: Gérard Férey, chemist, in 2010; Jules Hoffmann, biologist, in 2011; Philippe Descola, anthropologist, in 2012; Margaret Buckingham, developmental biologist, in 2013; Gérard Berry, computer scientist, in 2014; Eric Karsenti, biologist, in 2015; Claire Voisin, mathematician, in 2016; Alain Brillet and Thibault Damour, physicists, in 2017; Barbara Cassin, philosopher, in 2018.
(2) articles cited more than 5000 times, 11 articles more than 1000 times