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G.Ghiringhelli and L.Braicovich receive award from the European Physical Society


Giacomo Ghiringhelli and Lucio Braicovich were awarded the 2018 Europhysics Prize of the Condensed Matter Division of the European Physical Society (EPS), for their groundbreaking work « for the development and scientific exploration of high-resolution resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) ».

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Awarded once every 2 years, the EPS Condensed Matter Europhysics Prize is one of Europe’s most prestigious prizes in the field of condensed matter physics. The Prize will be presented on Tuesday March 13th, 2018, at the Awards Session of the 27th General Conference of the EPS Condensed Matter Division, to be held in Berlin.

"All of us at the ESRF wish to express our most vivid congratulations to Lucio Braicovich and Giacomo Ghiringhelli from the Politecnico di Milano for being awarded this prestigious Prize. » said Francesco Sette, ESRF Director General. "We are particularly pleased as Lucio and Giacomo invented RIXS at the ESRF, initially on ID12B/ID08 beamlines in the mid 90's, and then actively participated in the conception and construction of the new ID32 RIXS station that stands today as the world flagship in the RIXS field. We wish to congratulate Nick Brookes, ESRF scientist, and his team for the wonderful job that they have done in supporting the Milano team. »

Thanks to their seminal work at the ESRF, RIXS has indeed established itself as a prime spectroscopic technique to study highly correlated materials as high-temperature superconductors. Many RIXS stations, following the Milano design and their construction at the ESRF, have been developed around the world in today's most performing synchrotron laboratories. Plans are also being considered at present for RIXS stations using the new X-ray Free Electron Laser facilities.


The RIXS spectrometer of the ESRF ID32 beamline (credit: ESRF/Stef Cande)

Recently, Braicovich and Ghiringhelli, with Nick Brookes, have conducted the first experiments that take advantage of the unprecedented resolution of the ESRF ERIXS spectrometer (0.03 eV at the Cu L-absorption edge). These concern detailed, quantitative comparisons of magnon dispersions in different families of cuprates; the measurement of phonons and the electron-phonon interaction; and the discovery of collective modes of charge density waves.

As explained by EPS, the advantages of the RIXS technique – measurement of the entire Brillouin zone, unprecedented energy resolution, applicability to small sample volumes under extreme conditions – have led to advances and discoveries inconceivable just a few years ago, that have transformed the landscape of solid-state spectroscopy, inspired a new generation of scientists now entering the field, and will continue to very significantly impact condensed matter research in the years to come. This revolutionary development is due to the vision, the commitment, and the determination of Lucio Braicovich and Giacomo Ghiringhelli, who conceived and worked on high resolution RIXS with great determination for well over a decade, have pioneered the development of both key hardware and scientific concepts, and performed crucial experiments.

As explained by Giacomo Ghiringhelli : "I am honored and excited for this award, that recognizes Lucio's foresight in exploring the great opportunities offered by third generation synchrotron sources to X-ray spectroscopy, and our common endurance in finding some of them. It took several years of technical and scientific efforts before count rate and energy resolution became good enough for RIXS experiments to be really significant. And then we realized that high Tc superconductors were the ideal samples for RIXS, a technique capable of probing several facets of their complex and mysterious electronic and magnetic structure. The collaboration with eminent colleagues for the development of the instruments, of the theory and of the experiments on cuprates has been a key for the success of high resolution RIXS. On the personal side, working with Lucio for more than 20 years has been a daily pleasure. We have continuously renewed our fellowship thanks to shared curiosity and complementarity in our competences. And the belief that the quality of experimental data is the first prerequisite of all scientific enterprise."

Lucio and Giacomo continue a tradition of Europhysics prizes of EPS Condensed Matter Division awarded to spectroscopy work carried out at the ESRF. In fact, the 2000 one was awarded to Paolo Carra - at the time Head of the ESRF Theory Group - and to his colleagues Gerrit van der Laan and Gisela Shültz-Gmeineder - for "their pioneering work in establishing the field of X-ray circular magnetic dichroism."

Top image: Giacomo Ghiringhelli, Lucio Braicovich, and Nick Brookes at the ESRF, at ID32 beamline in front of the RIXS spectrometer (credit: Giacomo Ghiringhelli)