Nobel Prize 2023 in Chemistry Awarded for Discovery of Quantum Dots

A team of scientists who labored to find and improve quantum dots, which are used in LED lights and TV screens, as well as by surgeons when removing cancer tissue, have been awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The Nobel committee for chemistry praised Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov as “pioneers in the exploration of the nanoworld” as it announced the prize in Sweden’s capital Stockholm on Wednesday.

“Nobody thought you could ever make such small particles for a long time.” “However, this year’s laureates were successful,” stated committee chair Johan Aqvist.

At the announcement ceremony, Heiner Linke, a member of the chemistry committee, highlighted what made the laureates’ work so groundbreaking.

“The fundamental property of quantum dots is that simply changing their size… changes their properties, such as color.” “This is completely out of the ordinary,” Linke stated.

“Imagine you want to dye T-shirts – a red one, a green one, a yellow one, and a blue one.” Each of these hues would require a distinct chemical. “Chemistry is all about different atoms in different constellations giving you different colors,” he explained.

However, thanks to the scientists’ expertise in nanotechnology, quantum dots enable us to “use precisely the same atoms in the same constellations and just change the size, how many of the atoms you have, and get new colors and other properties.”

Brus, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, and Bawendi, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are both Americans. Ekimov is a Russian who works for Nanocrystals Technology Inc. in New York.

Bawendi, who was born in France, received an early morning phone call from Stockholm informing him that he is one of the 2023 chemistry laureates. He told reporters that he was “very surprised, sleepy, shocked, unexpected, and very honored” and that he would celebrate his victory by teaching his 9 a.m. class at MIT. Additionally, you can also read about- Nobel Prize 2023 in Physics Awarded for Breakthrough in Atomic Imaging

Discovering a New Color World

In the “nanoworld,” matter is measured in millionths of millimeters. Strange phenomena known as “quantum effects” begin to occur at this level.

Quantum dots are made up of only a few thousand atoms. In terms of size, one quantum dot is the equivalent of a soccer ball to the Earth.

When light passes through quantum dots, a distinct hue is emitted. The size of the dots determines how finely this can be tweaked. The larger dots are red, while the smaller ones are green or blue.

The smallest variations in particle size can cause color changes all the way across the color wheel.

The work of the laureates has enabled scientists to capitalize on some of the qualities of the nanoworld, and quantum dots can now be found in living rooms and operating rooms all around the world.

They are currently commonly used in televisions and have various advantages over regular LCD panels, including the ability to produce more brilliant and accurate colors while using less energy.

The powdered dots are applied on a plate of diodes that emit blue light at the rear of televisions and other screens. The quantum dots are illuminated by blue light, which emit their own color depending on their size.

Medical diagnostics also make extensive use of the dots. Doctors use them to illuminate chemicals that can bind to cancer tumors, allowing surgeons to discriminate between healthy and sick tissue.

The Nobel committee stated how the scientists’ work contributed to the development of quantum dots.

Ekimov discovered size-dependent quantum phenomena in tinted glass in the 1980s. Brus was the first scientist to demonstrate size-dependent quantum effects in particles floating freely in a liquid a few years later.

Bawendi then modified the chemical manufacturing of quantum dots in 1993, resulting in what the committee referred to as “almost perfect particles.” This advancement made it possible to employ the dots in applications.

Read More: mRNA Vaccine Pioneers Kariko and Weissman Win Nobel Prize 2023 in Medicine

The American Chemical Society’s president, Judith Giordan, lauded the laureates’ work.

“Here is an incredibly important finding that has progressed over decades from a theoretical phenomena to the ability to make it in the lab and subsequently to produce it in regulated numbers… “It’s absolutely phenomenal to be able to allow for such a wide range of wavelengths and colors,” Giordan told CNN.

An Unfortunate Mistake

The Nobel committee’s proceedings are typically cloaked in complete secrecy. The Nobel Prize shortlists are not publicized, and the winners are announced shortly before the actual announcement.

However, the names of the winning three were accidentally released by the Swedish Academy of Sciences before the official announcement on Wednesday.

According to Reuters, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a copy of an email purportedly from the academy. Before the announcement, Aqvist told Reuters that the email was a “mistake” and that no final decision had been taken. However, the leaked names were later confirmed as laureates.

“Let me begin by saying that this is, of course, quite terrible. We certainly regret what occurred,” Hans Ellegren, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, stated during the announcement event.

“A press release was distributed for unknown reasons.” We’ve been working hard this morning to figure out what happened, but we don’t know what happened. We are truly sorry that this occurred. What matters is that it had no effect on the awarding of the prize.”

Also Read: Nobel Prize in Literature 2023


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