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HomenewsMoungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Scientists Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov have won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots”, which illuminate computer monitors and television screens and are used by doctors to map tumours.

“The Nobel Laureates … have succeeded in producing particles so small that their properties are determined by quantum phenomena. The particles, which are called quantum dots, are now of great importance in nanotechnology,” the Nobel Committee for Chemistry said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication.”

Bawendi, of MIT; Brus, of Columbia University; and Ekimov, of Nanocrystals Technology Inc, were honoured for their work with the particles just a few atoms in diameter, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which announced the award in Stockholm.

Nanoparticles and quantum dots are used in LED lights and can also be used to guide surgeons while removing cancer tissue.

Quantum dots’ electrons have constrained movement, and this affects how they absorb and release visible light, allowing for very bright colours.

The dots are nanoparticles that glow blue, red, or green when illuminated or exposed to light. The colour they emit depends on the size of the particles. Larger dots shine red, and smaller dots shine blue. The colour change is due to how electrons act differently in more or less confined spaces.

While physicists had predicted these colour-change properties as early as the 1930s, creating quantum dots of specific controlled sizes was not possible in the lab for another five decades.

In a highly unusual turn of events, Swedish media reported the names of the winners before the prize was announced.

“There was a press release sent out for still unknown reasons. We have been very active this morning to find out exactly what happened,” Hans Ellegren, the secretary-general of the academy, told the news conference where the award was announced. “This is very unfortunate, we do regret what happened.”

Russian scientist Ekimov, 78, and American scientist Brus, 80, are early pioneers of the technology, while French-Tunisian Bawendi, 62, is credited with revolutionising the production of quantum dots “resulting in almost perfect particles. This high quality was necessary for them to be utilised in applications,” the academy said.

Bawendi told the news conference that he was “very surprised, sleepy, shocked, unexpected and very honoured”.

“The community realised the implications in the mid-90s, that there could potentially be some real-world applications,” Bawendi said.

Asked about the leak, he said he did not know about the prize until he was called by the academy.

The academy, which awards the physics, chemistry and economics prizes, asks for nominations a year in advance from thousands of university professors and other scholars around the world.

A committee for each prize then discusses candidates in a series of meetings throughout the year. At the end of the process, the committee presents one or more proposals to the full academy for a vote.

The more than century-old prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is worth 11 million Swedish crowns ($997,959).

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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