The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry to three scientists, one of them is the Tunisian-French-American scientist Moungi Bawendi, for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.
TUNIS — Wednesday, three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their work on quantum dots — particles with a diameter of only a few atoms that can emit extremely intense colored light and have applications in electronics and medical imaging.
Moungi Bawendi, of MIT; Louis Brus, of Columbia University; and Alexei Ekimov, of Nanocrystals Technology Inc., were honored for their work with the tiny particles that “have unique properties and now spread their light from television screens and LED lamps,” according to the announcement made in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Why does it matter that we can create microscopic particles that no one can see but have colors? The prize was conferred by Pernilla Witting Stafshede, a member of the Nobel committee. This is currently utilized in both medicine and technology. However, there are displays in televisions and cell phones that use quantum dots to produce richer colors.”
The suspense surrounding the academy’s decision took an unusual turn when Swedish media reported the victors’ names several hours before the award was presented. Evidently, the early notice originated from a press release that was mistakenly issued early.
Electrons in quantum dots have constrained movement, which effects how they absorb and release visible light, thereby enabling the production of extremely vibrant colors.
The specks are nanoparticles that emit blue, red, or green light when exposed to or illuminated by light. The color that these particles emanate is dependent on their size. The larger dots glow red, while the tiny ones glow blue. The color change is due to how electrons act in more or less confined spaces.
Although physicists had predicted these color-changing properties as early as the 1930s, it was not possible to create quantum dots of controlled proportions in the laboratory for another 50 years.
Ekimov, 78, and Brus, 80, were early innovators of the technology, while Bawendi, 62, is credited with revolutionizing the production of quantum dots, “resulting in nearly faultless particles. “This level of quality was required for their use in applications,” the academy stated.
“By the mid-1990s, the community recognized the ramifications and the possibility of real-world applications,” he said.
Judy Giordan, president of the American Chemical Society, expressed her delight at the victors’ selection.
“What we value most in chemistry is the ability to create and tailor novel structures and architectures in order to solve problems that benefit people and the planet,” Girodan explained.
Swedish media reported that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences had issued a press release identifying Bawendi, Brus, and Ekimov as the newest Nobel laureates hours before Wednesday’s announcement.
According to a press release cited by public broadcaster SVT, the triumvirate was awarded the prize for the “discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.”
After officially announcing the three winners, Secretary-General Hans Ellegren said the Swedish academy would investigation how the information came out in advance.
“A press release was distributed for unknown purposes. During the press conference where the award was announced, stated, “We have been very active this morning in determining exactly what occurred.” “This is a very unfortunate occurrence, and we deeply regret it.”
The academy that awards the physics, chemistry, and economics prizes solicits nominations a year in advance from tens of thousands of university professors and other academics from around the globe.
A committee for each honor then meets throughout the year to deliberate candidates. At the conclusion of the procedure, the committee presents one or more proposals for a vote by the entire academy. For fifty years, the deliberations, including the names of nominees other than the victors, are kept secret.
Bawendi stated at the news conference that he was “very surprised, sleepy, shocked, unexpected, and extremely honored.”
Asked about the leak, Bawendi said he didn’t know he’d been made a Nobel laureate until he was contacted by the academy.
He stated that he did not consider the potential applications of his work when he began researching quantum dots.
“The motivation is the fundamental physics. A fundamental comprehension, the desire to know how the world functions. This is what motivates scientists and academic scientists to conduct their research, he said.
Brus stated that he did not answer the phone when the Swedish academy contacted him early in the morning.
“It was ringing in the middle of the night, but I didn’t answer it because I’m basically trying to sleep,” he told The Associated Press. When he awoke around 6 a.m., he finally read the news online.
“I certainly was not expecting this,” Brus stated.
Brus stated that he was pleased to see his field of chemistry receive recognition. When he began his research decades ago, he hoped to find practical applications for quantum dots, such as the creation of hues in flat-screen televisions.
“It is extremely difficult to predict the outcome of basic research,” Brus said. It is intended more for the knowledge base than the actual materials. In this situation, it’s both.”
The physics prize was awarded on Tuesday to the French-Swedish physicist Anne L’Huillier, the French scientist Pierre Agostini, and the Hungarian-born Ferenc Krausz for providing the first look into the ultrafast world of spinning electrons.
Monday saw the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Medicine to Hungarian-American Katalin Karikó and American Drew Weissman for their discoveries that enabled the development of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
The chemistry prize marks the midway point of Nobel season. The prizes in literature, peace, and economics will be announced daily until October 9th.
This year, the Nobel Foundation increased the prize money by 10% to 11 million Swedish kronor (approximately $1 million). In addition to the monetary award, Nobel Prize recipients receive an 18-karat gold medal and a diploma at the December award ceremonies.
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