Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for discovery of quantum dots

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for discovery of quantum dots
  • PublishedOctober 5, 2023

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for their discovery and development of “quantum dots”.

Key points:

  • Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov are responsible for the discovery of quantum dot nanoparticles
  • The discovery has already yielded a number of practical applications
  • The names of the recipients were leaked to Swedish media earlier in the day

Quantum dots are tiny particles, just a few atoms in diameter, whose electrons have constrained movement.

Their size alone affects how they absorb and release visible light, allowing for very bright colours and leading to their use in many electronics, such as LED displays.

“These tiny particles have unique properties and now spread their light from television screens and LED lamps. They catalyse chemical reactions and their clear light can illuminate tumour tissue for a surgeon,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its announcement on Wednesday.

The announcement came after the academy appeared to inadvertently release the names of the three scientists earlier in the day, when Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a copy of an email it said was from the academy in which the laureates were named.

However, the award-giving body was immediately at pains to remind people that the official decision was still hours away, with Nobel chemistry committee chairman Johan Aqvist telling Reuters: “It is a mistake by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Our meeting starts at 0930 CET (0730 GMT) so no decision has been made yet. The winners have not been selected.”

The confirmation of the decision will have come as a relief to Professor Bawendi, Professor Brus and Dr Ekimov, who work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University and Nanocrystals Technology Inc respectively.

Professor Bawendi was born in Paris and grew up in France, Tunisia, and the United States.

He did his postdoctoral research at Bell Laboratories under Professor Brus, before joining MIT in 1990 and becoming a professor in 1996.

Professor Brus started his scientific career on a US Navy scholarship, where he studied at Rice and Columbia University.

In 1972 he was hired by AT&T Bell Labs where he spent 23 years, devoting much of the time to studying nanocrystals.

Dr Ekimov was born in the Soviet Union and studied at the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute.

He later worked for the Vavilov State Optical Institute before moving to the United States, and was named chief scientist at Nanocrystals Technology Inc in 1999.

The Nobel Prizes are awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and are accompanied by 11 million Swedish kronor (about $1.56 million) in cash.

The prizes for medicine and physics were announced earlier this week, and the prizes for literature and peace will be announced over the coming days.


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