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Argonne’s Walter Henning receives award from German president


Noted physicist Walter F. Henning of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has received a prestigious award from the president of Germany in recognition of Henning’s contributions to physics research in that country.

Henning was awarded a Cross of Merit of the First Class of the Federal Republic of Germany by German President Horst Köhler at a ceremony on Oct. 4 in Berlin. The Cross of Merit is the highest tribute Germany can pay to individuals for service to the nation and is often presented to artists, industrialists and government officials, less often to scientists.

Henning was honored for his central role in landing a 1 billion Euro accelerator facility to be built at GSI Darmstadt while serving as director of that center, Germany’s premier nuclear physics research facility. The Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR), an international collaboration involving 14 nations, will be the site of advanced physics, biological and materials research. Construction is expected to begin in November.

“Accepting such a prestigious award was a little embarrassing, because FAIR is the result of the efforts of a great many individuals,” said Henning, “However, I appreciate the gesture very much. It is indeed a great honor.”

Henning left GSI Darmstadt and a faculty position at the University of Frankfurt in June to rejoin Argonne and head up the laboratory’s effort to build a proposed exotic beam facility for nuclear physics research. Henning had worked three previous stints at Argonne, most recently in the early to late nineties, when he served as director of the Physics Division. He now holds the title of Argonne Distinguished Fellow, the highest scientific and engineering rank at the laboratory.

Argonne is one of the sites competing for a new facility proposed by the DOE for generating rare isotopes, which could revolutionize mankind’s knowledge of nuclei, the core of matter and the fuel of stars. The facility could cost an estimated $550 million.

Argonne is collaborating with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and a group of universities on its proposal. Henning expects the DOE Office of Science to issue a call for proposals for the exotic beam facility late this year or early next year, and the winning proposal selected by next summer.

If Argonne is selected to build the exotic beam facility, Henning suggested that research and development could begin in 2008, with the commencement of construction likely by 2011.


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