Thomas Ebbesen

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Thomas Ebbesen in 2021

Thomas Ebbesen (born 30 January 1954 in Oslo) is a Franco-Norwegian physical chemist and professor at the University of Strasbourg in France, known for his pioneering work in nanoscience. He received the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience “for transformative contributions to the field of nano-optics that have broken long-held beliefs about the limitations of the resolution limits of optical microscopy and imaging”, together with Stefan Hell, and Sir John Pendry in 2014.

Thomas Ebbesen obtained his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College, and a PhD from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris in the field of photo-physical chemistry. He then worked at the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory before joining the NEC Fundamental Research Laboratories in Japan in 1988 where his research shifted first to novel carbon materials such as fullerenes (C60), graphene and carbon nanotubes. After discovering how to mass-produce carbon nanotubes,[1] he and his colleagues measured many of their unique features such as their mechanical[2] and wetting properties.[3] For his pioneering and extensive contribution to the field of carbon nanotubes, he shared the 2001 Agilent Europhysics Prize with Sumio Iijima, Cees Dekker and Paul McEuen.

While working at NEC, Ebbesen discovered a major new optical phenomenon. He found that, contrary to the then accepted theory, it was possible to transmit light extremely efficiently through subwavelength holes milled in opaque metal films under certain conditions.[4] The phenomenon, known as extraordinary optical transmission, involves surface plasmons. It has raised fundamental questions and is finding applications in broad variety of areas from chemistry to opto-electronics.[5] Ebbesen has received several awards for the discovery of the extraordinary optical transmission such as the 2005 France Telecom Prize of the French Academy of Sciences and the 2009 Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize of the European Physical Society.

In 1999, Thomas Ebbesen joined ISIS[6] founded by Jean-Marie Lehn at the University of Strasbourg, which he headed from 2004 to 2012. In 2017–2018, he held the L. Bettencourt chair for Technological Innovation at the Collège de France. He is currently the director of the International Center for Frontier Research in Chemistry.[7] and the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study.[8]

Since 2005 he has developed new field of research at the interface of quantum electrodynamics and physical chemistry. His team demonstrated for the first time that material properties such as chemical reactivity could be modified by strongly coupling the molecules to the electromagnetic fluctuations of an optical cavity.[9] For this work he was awarded the 2018 Grand Prix of the Maison de la Chimie foundation.

He is a member of the Institut Universitaire de France, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the French Academy of Science and the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts.

In 2019, he is awarded the CNRS Gold medal in France[10]

He is married to the pianist Masako Hayashi-Ebbesen. They have two daughters.



  1. ^ Ebbesen, T. W.; Ajayan, P. M. (1992). "Large-scale synthesis of carbon nanotubes". Nature. 358 (6383): 220. Bibcode:1992Natur.358..220E. doi:10.1038/358220a0. S2CID 4270290.
  2. ^ Treacy, M. M. J.; Ebbesen, T. W.; Gibson, J. M. (1996). "Exceptionally high Young's modulus observed for individual carbon nanotubes". Nature. 381 (6584): 678. Bibcode:1996Natur.381..678T. doi:10.1038/381678a0. S2CID 4332264.
  3. ^ Dujardin, E.; Ebbesen, T. W.; Hiura, H.; Tanigaki, K. (1994). "Capillarity and Wetting of Carbon Nanotubes". Science. 265 (5180): 1850–2. Bibcode:1994Sci...265.1850D. doi:10.1126/science.265.5180.1850. PMID 17797225. S2CID 37061814.
  4. ^ Ebbesen, T.W.; Lezec, H.J.; Ghaemi, H.F.; Thio, T.; Wolff, P.A. (1998). "Extraordinary optical transmission through sub-wavelength hole arrays". Nature. 391, 667.
  5. ^ Genet, C.; Ebbesen, T. W. (2007). "Light in tiny holes". Nature. 445 (7123): 39–46. Bibcode:2007Natur.445...39G. doi:10.1038/nature05350. PMID 17203054. S2CID 4419224.
  6. ^ "Laboratoire des Nanostructures (Thomas EBBESEN)". Institut de Science et d'Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (in French). 5 December 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
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  9. ^ Hutchison, James A.; Schwartz, Tal; Genet, Cyriaque; Devaux, Eloïse; Ebbesen, Thomas W. (10 January 2012). "Modifying Chemical Landscapes by Coupling to Vacuum Fields". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Wiley. 51 (7): 1592–1596. doi:10.1002/anie.201107033. ISSN 1433-7851. PMID 22234987.
  10. ^ "Thomas Ebbesen, physical chemist, awarded the CNRS Gold Medal for 2019". CNRS. 2019-07-09. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
  11. ^ "Bernard Derrida, Thomas Ebbesen, Antoine Georges et Clément Sanchez, nommés au grade de chevalier dans l'Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur" (in French). Académie des sciences. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  12. ^ "Patron Saint's Day Honorary Doctors". KU Leuven. Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  13. ^ "Quinquennial ANNIVERSARY AWARD – Thomas W. Ebbesen". European Materials Research Society. Retrieved 2018-11-06.
  14. ^ "Les lauréats 2018" (in French). Fondation de la Maison de la Chimie. Retrieved 2018-11-06.

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