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27 October 2004

Physics Nobel Prize Laureate Wolfgang Ketterle at the Physics Colloquium in Heidelberg

Physics Nobel Prize laureate to speak at the Physics Colloquium in Heidelberg on 29 October 2004 (5.15 p.m.) on the occasion of Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wolfrum's 65th birthday — Institute of Physical Chemistry expects an audience of several hundred

The regular Friday physics colloquia at he University of Heidelberg can look back on a long and venerable tradition. But the event on 29 October has a very special significance: it will be taking place in honour of the 65th birthday of the administrative director of the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Professor Dr. Jürgen Wolfrum. In addition the speaker will be an especially prominent former post-doctoral student of Prof. Wolfrum's, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, whose experimental research on Bose-Einstein condensation and the first atom laser brought him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001.

Prof. Wolfrum (born in 1939 in Jena) is already looking forward to the event: "I'm sure that a few other former doctoral students of mine will be there too," he enthuses. "There have been about 150 of them so far. They won't all be able to come to Heidelberg of course, but we're expecting an audience of about 600 at the physics colloquium."

Many of them will naturally be attending to hear the Nobel Prize laureate talking about ultra-cold quantum gases. But it should not be forgotten that although Heidelberg-born Ketterle has been working at MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) since the early 1990s, the distinction bestowed on him rests on experimental techniques he developed at the Institute of Physical Chemistry in Heidelberg.

Foundations laid by the appointment of Jürgen Wolfrum as physics professor in Heidelberg in 1982

The foundations for this triumph were laid by the appointment of Jürgen Wolfrum at the University of Heidelberg in 1982. In 1984, Wolfrum and a number of his colleagues in Baden-Württemberg succeeded in establishing the TECFLAM research group. The aim of the group was to achieve a complete mathematical description of combustion processes, to verify the predictions of the models by means of modern spectroscopy and to optimise combustion by minimising the formation of pollutants. The systems that have profited from the intensive research in this area range from ordinary household boilers to aircraft turbines, Otto and diesel engines. Close cooperation between basic research and practical applications has been ensured by integrated projects involving the research and development departments of Daimler-Benz, Volkswagen and the European Car Manufacturers' Association. In collaboration with Volkswagen AG, laser spectroscopy has been used to observe fuel distribution, flame-front development and the formation of harmful nitrogen oxide and soot in running engines. The insights gained from this have gone into the development of the TDI engines in widespread use today. Wolfgang Ketterle was centrally involved in the pioneering experiments. In his subsequent work at MIT he was successful in exploiting the methods of multi-dimensional laser spectroscopy developed in this project to study Bose-Einstein condensation and to devise the first-ever atom laser. It was for this that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2001.

Ketterle's lecture: "Ice-Cold Quantum Gases with New Features"

Ketterle's lecture on 29 October will be on "Ice-Cold Quantum Gases with New Features". Interesting in this connection is the fact that in a recent experiment he was able to produce the lowest temperature ever achieved by human agency. Says Jürgen Wolfrum: "The difference to absolute zero was only half a nano-Kelvin, which is 0.5 x 10-9 Kelvin. Pulling off an experiment like that is more than a minor sensation — it's almost like a second Nobel Prize. And it also shows how many interesting fields there still are to explore, how many discoveries there are to be made!"

Hearing these words, it is easy to sense the degree to which Jürgen Wolfrum is still fascinated by his subject after all these years. And it is equally obvious how proud he is of his former student. "Of course I'm overjoyed that Wolfgang Ketterle is coming to Heidelberg for my 65th birthday — although actually it was back in September. It reminds me of my 60th birthday, when he also came to give a lecture. But that was before his Nobel Prize. And now he's coming back again with such a prestigious award to his name! As a scientist it's an immense source of gratification to have been in at the beginning of a career like that!"

This — and the fact that the Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Peter Hommelhoff, will be there to welcome the audience — is what makes the physics colloquium at 5.15 on 29 October a very special event — even though it is "only" the continuation of a long tradition at the University of Heidelberg.
Heiko P. Wacker

Please address any inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wolfrum

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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