This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to three researchers working in the USA for the discovery and development of so-called quantum dots. Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov created important foundations for this area of nanotechnology in the 80s and 90s, as the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm announced. Quantum dots are used, among other things, in modern screens, LED lamps and also in tumor surgery.
The structures, also known as artificial atoms, are tiny and have very unique physical properties. They are interesting for use in so-called optoelectronics, for example in displays, photovoltaic systems and quantum computers.
There is an oversight in the announcement
Roughly speaking, a special feature is that electrons can only move to a very limited extent within the quantum dots. This makes many properties of the quantum dots dependent on their size. This makes the structures the ideal system for exploring fundamental quantum mechanical effects.
The names of the three winners were accidentally included in a message sent to the Swedish media that morning several hours before the announcement. In response to a request from the German Press Agency in Stockholm, the academy's spokeswoman said that no decision had yet been made about the prize winners. Members of the academy spoke to Swedish media about an oversight. It is a tradition at the Nobel Prizes that the winners in the individual categories are always kept strictly secret until they are officially announced.
Only eight women among the chemistry prize winners
This year, the most prestigious award for chemists is worth a total of eleven million crowns (around 950,000 euros). The ceremonial presentation of the prizes traditionally takes place on December 10th, the anniversary of the death of the founder Alfred Nobel.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to 192 different researchers. Two of them received it twice. The award winners so far have included eight women, such as Marie Curie in 1911, who discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium, and the researchers Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna in 2020 for the development of genetic scissors for targeted genetic modification.
In 2022, the award went to three researchers for methods for the particularly efficient construction of biomolecules. Morten Meldal (Denmark), Barry Sharpless (USA) and Carolyn Bertozzi (USA) made significant contributions to so-called click chemistry, with which chemical building blocks can be connected to one another comparatively easily.