For Tsai Jaw-Shen, one 1,000th of a millimeter is "quite large" and one 100,000th of a second is "very long." The world he looks at is different from the one ordinary people see.
Tsai has reproduced phenomena that occur at an atomic level - using measurements of one 10-millionth of a millimeter - at a much larger level, using metal items measuring one 1,000th of a millimeter, equivalent in size to bacteria. He has been awarded the 11th Leo Esaki Prize for his research, which could pave the way for the development of next-generation information processing devices called quantum computers.
The aim of the prize is to praise outstanding achievements in nanotechnology fields.
"It's the result of taking up challenges without having the preconception that they are difficult to tackle," the 62-year-old researcher said.
"If it becomes reality, we could make a calcualtion that requires 10,000 years with a supercomputer now in an hour," he said.
However, Tsai also added it is not an easy task. "If this were mountain climbing, we'd still be at the second station."
Born in Taiwan, Tsai spent his childhood in Japan. After obtaining a doctoral degree in the United States, he returned to Japan where he currently works at the RIKEN research institute as a project team leader.
With a command of three languages - Japanese, English and Chinese - Tsai calls himself a "cosmopolitan." Half of his team members are elite researchers he recruited from other countries.
Tsai's way of spending his free time also reminds people that he is a researcher. On weekends, Tsai visits his wife's parental home in Gunma Prefecture and applies his mental powers to renovating an old farm house.
"It's fun being creative and trying various things to create an optimum result," he said.