Kavli Prize for Nanoscience
1 Mio Dollar for pioneers of electron microscopy

Ulm University

May 27, 2020 (OSLO) — The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced the 2020 Kavli Prize Laureates in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. This year’s Kavli Prize honours scientists whose research has transformed our understanding of the very big, the very small and the very complex. The laureates in each field will share 1 million USD. The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience is awarded to four scientists for their research and inventions of aberrationcorrected lenses in electron microscopes that have created the ability for researchers worldwide to see the structure and chemical composition of materials in three dimensions on unprecedentedly short-length scales: Harald Rose of the Ulm University and Technical University of Darmstadt, Maximilian Haider of CEOS GmbH, Knut Urban of the Forschungszentrum Jülich, and Ondrej L Krivanek of Nion Co.

A major goal of nanoscience is to create materials and devices assembled with atomic scale precision to obtain novel functionalities. The size of an atom is around one ångström (0.1 nanometer), so imaging and analysis of materials and devices at the sub-ångström scale is crucial to illuminate the details of the nanoscale world. The resolution of a classical microscope is limited by the wavelength of the probe used for imaging. Because visible light has a wavelength around 5000 times larger than an atom, optical lenses simply cannot image atoms. 

In the early part of the 20th century beams of electrons with atomic-scale wavelength became available, leading to the invention of the transmission electron microscope in 1931. With this type of microscopy, a beam of electrons is transmitted through a thin material, forming an image based on the electrons’ interaction with it. The image is then magnified and focused onto an imaging device. But the resulting images were distorted and blurry because making ideal lenses to focus beams of electrons turned out to be a big theoretical and experimental hurdle. The problem persisted for over 60 years as both theorists and experimentalists struggled to find a solution. Thanks to their insights, skills and the increase in computational power in the 1990s, these researchers were able to construct aberration-corrected lenses relying on electromagnetic fields to focus beams of electrons, making sub-ångström imaging (less than one ten-billionth of a metre) and chemical analysis in three dimensions a standard characterization method.

The 1 million USD Kavli Prize is shared by:

•  Harald Rose, for proposing a novel lens design, the Rose corrector, enabling aberration correction in  transmission electron microscopy that can be applied to both conventional and scanning transmission  electron microscopes.

•  Maximilian Haider, for the realization of the first sextupole corrector, based on Rose’s design, and for his  role in the implementation of the first aberration-corrected conventional transmission electron  microscope.

•  Knut Urban, for his role in the implementation of the first aberration-corrected conventional transmission  electron microscope.

•  Ondrej L Krivanek, for the realization of the first aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron  microscope (a type of transmission electron microscope in which the electron beam is focused on a small  spot) with sub-ångström resolution, well suited for spatially resolved chemical analysis; obtained using a  quadrupole-octuple corrector.

“Their work is a beautiful example of scientific ingenuity, dedication and persistence. They have enabled humanity to see where we could not see before,” said Bodil Holst, chair of the Kavli Prize Committee in Nanoscience. “Honouring these scientists and sharing with the world who they are and how they have transformed research, technology, industries and our lives is more important than ever.”

About The Kavli Prize

The Kavli Prize is a partnership between The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research and The Kavli Foundation (US). The Kavli Prize honours scientists for breakthroughs in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience that transform our understanding of the very big, the very small and the very complex. Three million-dollar prizes are awarded every other year in each of the three fields. The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters selects the laureates based on recommendations from three prize committees whose members are nominated by The Chinese Academy of Sciences, The French Academy of Sciences, The Max Planck Society of Germany, The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The UK’s Royal Society. First awarded in 2008, The Kavli Prize has honoured 54 scientists from 13 countries – Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For more detailed information on The Kavli Prize, the 2020 laureates and their work, visit The Kavli Prize Laureates are typically celebrated in Oslo, Norway, in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty King Harald followed by a banquet at the Oslo City Hall, the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s award ceremony is postponed and will be held together with the 2022 award ceremony in September 2022.


Professor Harald Rose spent many years researching at the Institute of Applied Physics at the TU Darmstadt. After his retirement he came to Ulm University as a Carl Zeiss Guest Professor in 2010. Since 2016, the physicist holds a senior professorship at Ulm University. Here, he was significantly involved in the development of the super microscope SALVE. The Ulm SALVE device – a twofold aberration-corrected low-voltage transmission electron microscope – is the first of its kind in the world and enables the investigation of particularly electron beam-sensitive materials with subatomic resolution. The 85-year-old native of Bremen, who has received numerous awards, is one of the most renowned scientists in the field of electron microscopy.

(source: ulm university)

Text and Mediacontact: Andrea Weber-Tuckermann 



The Kavli Prize for Nanosciences is endowed with 1 million dollars
Prof. Harald Rose
One of the prizewinners is senior professor Harald Rose from Ulm (Photo: Elvira Eberhardt)
The Kavli Prize winners for nanoscience: above (from left): Prof. Harald Rose (Photo: private), Prof. Maximilian Haider (Photo: "Bilderfest" Germany), below (from left): Prof. Knut Urban (Photo: Forschungszentrum Jülich), Prof. Ondrej Krivanek (Photo: Michelle Krivanek)
Professor Harald Rose was - like Maximilian Haider of CEOS - significantly involved in the development of the Ulm super microscope SALVE, which was completed in 2016. The SALVE device is the world's first twofold aberration-corrected low-voltage transmission electron microscope. It can be used to investigate electron beam-sensitive materials such as graphene. (Photo: Heiko Grandel)