Prof. Dr. Laurens Molenkamp
Experimental Solid-State Physics, University of Würzburg
Prof. Dr. Laurens Wigbolt Molenkamp
© DFG / David Ausserhofer
Through his most important work, Laurens Molenkamp helped to establish an entirely new field of research. Having made a series of fundamental contributions to experimental solid-state physics and in particular semiconductor spintronics, in 2007 he achieved the first experimental verification of what was previously only a theoretically predicted new quantum state of matter: topological insulators. The quantum spin Hall effect experimentally verified by Molenkamp is related to the quantum Hall effect, the most significant discovery in solid-state physics of the 1980s. Unlike this effect, however, the quantum spin Hall effect occurs without an external magnetic field. Instead it uses a strong spin-orbit coupling, opening up a range of potential applications, for example in information technology. This discovery has produced significant impetus in both basic and applied research and has made topological insulators one of the most active areas of global research in solid-state physics. In Germany it led to the establishment of the DFG Priority Programme "Topological Insulators".
Born in 1956, Laurens Molenkamp studied physical chemistry in Groningen, where he also received his doctorate in 1985. He then spent almost ten years in industrial research before being offered a professorship at RWTH Aachen University in 1994. Since 1999 he has held the Chair of Experimental Physics at the University of Würzburg. His work, especially his work on the quantum spin Hall effect, has been published and cited in the most respected publications and has won him several awards, most recently an Advanced Grant from the ERC.