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Alexander Oraevsky leads Leibinger innovation awards

13 October 2014

Alexander Oraevsky
Alexander Oraevsky

About 400 people attended the Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis and Zukunftspeis ceremony in Ditzingen, Germany, on 26 September. Four prizes were awarded: three Innovationspreis awards for laser research, and the Zukunftspreis (Future Prize). The Berthold Leibinger Stiftung aims to stimulate scientific effort by awarding these biannual international research and innovation prizes.

SPIE Member Alexander Oraevsky received the First Prize for 2014, in honor of his laser optoacoustic imaging system, a new technique that combines both light and sound for biomedical imaging. It uses nanosecond-short laser light pulses to generate ultrasonic waves inside the tissue, which are then detected outside the body. This allows for sufficient spatial resolution and a high specificity of the signals, because different molecules absorb laser light of certain wavelengths differently. It has proved valuable in cancer diagnosis, but its potential for other clinical and research uses is vast.

In his acceptance, Oraevsky paid homage to his father, who was also a laser scientist in Russia. He closed his talk with a promise to do his best to bring an optoacoustic breast-imaging system to every hospital in the world, to aid in fighting cancer and provide a safer alternative to x rays.

Oraevsky is a long-time chair of the conference on Photonics Plus Ultrasound: Imaging and Sensing, held at SPIE Photonics West, and has published nearly 140 papers with SPIE.

Second Prize went to Helmut Erdl and Abdelmalek Hanafi of the BMW Group for development of a vehicular illumination system using semiconductor laser diodes.

Third Prize winners were Hwa-yaw Tam, Siu Lau Ho, and Shun-Yee Michael Liu from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. They received the prize for developing a laser sensing network for railway monitoring.

The Berthold Leibinger Zukunftspreis 2014 was presented to Philip Russell, director at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen, Germany, for his invention of the photonic crystal fiber. For over 30 years Russell has studied the behavior of light in periodic structures as well as nonlinear optics, waveguides and optical fibers.

German Federal Minister for Education and Research Johanna Wanka was the featured speaker of the evening. She highlighted the importance of an economy well-grounded in manufacturing to sustained economic well-being, and the vital roles of public and private funding of research.

The prizewinners are selected by an independent jury in a two-tier process. After a pre-evaltuation with the help of experts, eight candidates are selected as finalists and invited to the jury session. The jury decides on the prize winners after a presentation by each of the finalists.

Award presenters included prize-jury members SPIE Fellow Ursula Keller, SPIE Member Hans-Peter Berlien, and SPIE Industry and Market Strategist Stephen Anderson.