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Trio win chemistry Nobel for ‘quantum dots’ after leak

Published : Thursday, 5 October, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 452

Trio win chemistry Nobel for ‘quantum dots’ after leak

Trio win chemistry Nobel for ‘quantum dots’ after leak

STOCKHOLM, Oct 4: A trio of US-based researchers on Wednesday won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for developing tiny "quantum dots" used to illuminate TVs and lamps, hours after a prematurely sent statement revealed their names.

French-born Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus of the United States and Russian-born Alexei Ekimov brought advances on tiny particles that "now spread their light from televisions and LED lamps, and can also guide surgeons when they remove tumour tissue," the jury said. But a rare leak led to the winners' names being mistakenly sent to media outlets hours before they were officially announced, prompting an apology from the awards' overseers. Hans Ellegren, Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said a press release went out for "still unknown reasons."

"We deeply regret that this happened. The important thing is that it did not affect the awarding of the prize recipients in any way," Ellegren said during a press conference.

'Sound asleep '
Bawendi told reporters he had not heard the news before receiving the call from the Nobel Committee.

"I didn't know, I was awakened by the Swedish Academy. I was sound asleep," he said via telephone during a press conference, adding he had not expected the call. Bawendi listed his feelings as "very surprised. Sleepy, shocked. Unexpected and very honoured." Nobel leaks are rare, with the various prize-awarding academies going to great lengths to keep the winners' names under wraps until the announcements.

Bawendi, 62, born in Paris to French and Tunisian parents, is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

Brus, 80, is a professor at Columbia in New York, while Russian-born Ekimov, 78, was formerly chief scientist at Nanocrystals Technology in the US. Swedish Radio managed to get a hold of Brus, who lives in New York, before the Academy reached him to give him the news.

"I'm extremely happy, assuming it's real," Brus told the broadcaster, saying he was still "groggy" from having just woken up.
'Almost perfect'

According to the jury, physicists had long known of the potential properties of nanoparticles, but the prospect of using them to create and manipulate objects at such a tiny scale seemed impossible.

Heiner Linke, a professor at Lund University in Sweden and a member of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said a nanoparticle, when compared to a football, is what a football in relation to the size of Earth.

"The cool thing about quantum dots is that just by changing their size ... you change their properties. For example: their colour," Linke said in an interview published by the Nobel Foundation.

In the early 1980s, Ekimov conducted experiments showing that the same substance could tint glass into different colours, demonstrating that changes in size at the nanoparticle level could lead to different colours being absorbed.

A few years later, Brus was the first to prove these so-called "size-dependent quantum effects" in particles floating freely in a fluid, the jury said.

Then in 1993, Bawendi "revolutionised the chemical production of quantum dots, resulting in almost perfect particles.

 necessary for them to be utilised in applications," the jury added. In addition to their current use, quantum dots are believed to be able to contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted communication in the future. "We have just started exploring the potential of these tiny particles," the Academy said.

The trio will share the award of 11 million Swedish kronor (around $1 million) and will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

The chemistry award is the third Nobel of the season after the medicine prize and the physics prizes were announced earlier in the week.

The highly-watched literature and peace prizes, will be announced on Thursday and Friday respectively.

The economics prize -- created in 1968 and the only Nobel not included in the 1895 will of Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel founding the awards -- closes out the 2023 Nobel season on Monday.    �AFP

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