Ferenc Mezei
​Ferenc Mezei, laureate of the Gothenburg Lise Meitner award 2021. ​
​Photo: Malin Arnesson

“Most of my research has focused on things that could be useful for others"

​​Ferenc Mezei has made several ground-breaking discoveries in neutron physics. For this he is awarded the 2021 Lise Meitner Prize.
“It is certainly a great part of the satisfaction that knowledgeable people find one’s work also of some use. I think distinguished awards like this one always tend to primarily appreciate the value for general use, which is a very crucial part of the recognition,” he says.
Ferenc Mezei is awarded for inventing the neutron spin echo method, the concept of the so-called super mirror, as well as the long pulse neutron source concept. All are ground-breaking discoveries that have moved neutron research forward and improved the speed and accuracy of neutron-based materials investigation methods. Among other things, his research is the basis for the technical design of the large-scale research facility European Spallation Source (ESS) which is now being built in Lund, where he was also technical coordinator until recently.

Research is like solving challenging problems

Currently, Professor Mezei is in the frontline of the development of a new type of intense accelerator-driven 
compact neutron sources. Research is to be equated with solving challenging problems, he believes, and this is also one of his driving forces. Another one is the benefit of his research.

“Most of my research has focused on things that could be useful for others. In my opinion it has to be like that, if one spends a substantial amount of money. The challenge and satisfaction include the conviction of “money well spent”. Developing more powerful or simpler experimental techniques is something that by its fundamental nature is motivated by the use others will make of it. Of course, it was also a drive to be one the first users of these instrumental developments,” says Ferenc Mezei.

Ferenc Mezei, born in 1942 in Budapest, Hungary, is ordinary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest and Adjunct professor of Physics, University of California San Diego. He has also been Professor of Physics in joint appointment by TU Berlin and Hahn-Meitner Institute, Berlin. He also worked extended periods of time in neutron research laboratories at Central Research Institute of Physics in Budapest, at Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. 

Economy of neutron research​

During the award ceremony, Ferenc Mezei will give a talk titled “The economy of neutron research”. In what way is economy connected to neutrons?

”Neutrons are inherently expensive to produce. On one hand, the economy concerns these costs. On the other hand, neutron research primarily hinges on improving our capability of making best economy of the neutrons we can produce. Much of my research addressed this aspect. A further important aspect is the role of neutron beams can play in the economy in broader sense.”

When he is now awarded a prize that bears Lise Meitner's name, it is with her important research work in mind.

“Lise Meitner’s work fundamentally shaped history. One aspect of this is that she had to face multiple difficulties, tough conditions, and discriminations. Her elegance of handling all that is also admirable.”

Text: Lisa Gahnertz
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Page manager Published: Mon 19 Sep 2022.