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Thomas W. Ebbesen

Thomas W. Ebbesen is a Norwegian physical chemist who has done research in nanoscience around the world. He studied in the U.S., obtaining his bachelor's at Oberlin College in Ohio before moving to France, where he obtained his PhD at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in the early 1980s. He then moved back to the U.S. to work at the Notre Dame Radiation Laboratory, where he spent several years doing research in photo-physical chemistry.

His contribution to nanoscience began in 1988 when he moved to NEC in Tsukuba, Japan. He started working on the synthesis and on the properties of fullerenes, in particular, superconductivity, before drifting his attention towards carbon nanotubes. In 1992, working in collaboration with Pulickel Ajayan, he discovered an easy way to produce carbon nanotubes in large quantities. He went on to study the mechanical and electronic properties of single nanotubes.

He unexpectedly observed light propagtion through holes much smaller than the light wavelength. The phenomenon was explained by the interaction of light with electron waves at the metal surfaces (plasmons), and published in 1998, just before Ebbesen returned to France.

Since 1999, Ebbesen has worked at the Institut de Science et Ingénierie Supramoléculaires (ISIS) in Strasbourg, which he directed from 2004 to 2012. His research interest still focuses on the properties of plasmonic nanostructures and the interactions between plasmons and molecules.

He has received several awards for his contribution to nanoscience, including the Agilent Europhysics Prize in 2001 for his work on nanotubes, the France Telecom Prize of the French Academy of Sciences in 2005, and the Quantum Electronics and Optics Prize of the European Physical Society in 2009. He is also 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.

Life story Thomas W. Ebbesen

Thomas W. Ebbesen being interviewed after the ceremony in Oslo (Photo credit: Scanpix).

Focused ion beam micrograph image of the bull’s eye structure on a 300 nm-thick silver film used to demonstrated transmission through a subwavelength hole. (Photo credit: Science 297, 820-822 [2002])

Read the life story of Kavli Prize Laureate Thomas W. Ebbesen:

The Beauty of the Laws of Nature


Thomas Ebbesen is Fascinated by the Laws of Nature

Thomas Ebbesen Explores Nanoscience