Université de Strasbourg

Thomas Ebbesen

Chair of Physical Chemistry of Light-Matter Interactions, Director of USIAS

Thomas Ebbesen

Thomas Ebbesen is professor of physical chemistry at the University of Strasbourg in France, known for his pioneering work in nanoscience. He received a Bachelor's degree from Oberlin College (USA) and a PhD  in the field of photo-physical chemistry from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris. In 1981, he joined the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory and moved to the NEC Fundamental Research Laboratories in Japan in 1988. He then spent five years at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton before joining the Institute of Supramolecular Science and Engineering (ISIS) at the University of Strasbourg, which he directed from 2005 to 2012. He is currently the director of the International Center for Frontier Research in Chemistry (ICFRC), and the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS).

At NEC, Professor Ebbesen did research on nano-structured carbon materials and started exploring, in parallel, the potential of cavity quantum electrodynamics for controlling molecular properties. Whilst doing so he discovered that, contrary to the accepted theory at that time, it was possible to transmit light extremely efficiently through subwavelength holes milled in opaque metal films, under certain conditions. The phenomenon, known as extraordinary optical transmission, has raised fundamental questions and can be applied in a broad variety of areas, from chemistry to opto-electronics. Since 2005, he has been pioneering the investigation of light-matter strong coupling effects on material and chemical properties, which has led to the development of a new field known as polaritonic or quantum electrodynamic chemistry.

For his pioneering and extensive contribution to the field of carbon nanotubes, he shared the 2001 EuroPhysics Prize with Sumio Iijima, Cees Dekker and Paul McEuen. He has received numerous awards for the discovery of the phenomenon of extraordinary optical transmission, among which the 2005 France Telecom Prize of the French Academy of Sciences and the 2009 Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize of the European Physical Society (EPS).

Thomas Ebbesen furthermore received the 2014 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience together with Stefan Hell and Sir John Pendry for their transformative contributions to the field of nano-optics. In 2015, Thomas Ebbesen was given an honorary Doctorate of Science by Oberlin College, in the presence of the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Leuven in 2018. He also received the Quinquennial Anniversary Award of the European Materials Research Society (E-MRS) in 2018.

Thomas Ebbesen is a member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the French Academy of Science and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium, and was made Knight of the French Legion of Honour in 2017. He held the Liliane Bettencourt Chair of Technological Innovation at the Collège de France in 2017-2018. In 2019, he received the Grand Prix from the Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie for the development of the field of polaritonic chemistry, and the Gold Medal of the CNRS, the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

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