Bawendi, Brus, Ekimov Win 2023 Nobel Chemistry Prize

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023 to three scientists — Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus, and Alexei I. Ekimov for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.

According to the announcement on Wednesday, the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2023 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.

“Quantum dots have many fascinating and unusual properties. Importantly, they have different colours depending on their size,” says Mr Johan Åqvist, Chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry.

Physicists had long known that in theory, size-dependent quantum effects could arise in nanoparticles, but at that time it was almost impossible to sculpt in nanodimensions. Therefore, few people believed that this knowledge would be put to practical use.

However, in the early 1980s, Ekimov succeeded in creating size-dependent quantum effects in coloured glass. The colour came from nanoparticles of copper chloride and Ekimov demonstrated that the particle size affected the colour of the glass via quantum effects.

A few years later, Brus was the first scientist in the world to prove size-dependent quantum effects in particles floating freely in a fluid.

In 1993, Bawendi revolutionised the chemical production of quantum dots, resulting in almost perfect particles. This high quality was necessary for them to be utilised in applications.

Quantum dots now illuminate computer monitors and television screens based on QLED technology. They also add nuance to the light of some LED lamps, and biochemists and doctors use them to map biological tissue.

Quantum dots are thus bringing the greatest benefit to humankind. Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication – so we have just started exploring the potential of these tiny particles.

The academy has awarded medicine (Monday) and physics (Tuesday) and will on Thursday award for literature and then peace (Friday) and economics (next Monday). It 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 founded by the late Alfred Nobel is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and is worth 11 million Swedish crowns (~$ 1 million).

In a highly unusual turn of events, Swedish media reported the names of the Chemistry Prize winners before it was officially announced today, following a leak.

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