2023 Chemistry Nobel grants big honor to explorers of the super-small
This year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to three different scientists who advanced the development of quantum dots – nanoscale particles that exhibit unusual characteristics thanks to their diminutive size.
As with most particles, the smaller they get, the stranger they can act. This is certainly true of quantum dots, semiconductor crystals that were developed over the years by the three Nobel winners. Using colored glass, Alexei Ekimov, from the former USSR, showed in the early 1980s that nanoparticles of copper chloride would change color depending on their size. Shortly afterward, American Louis Brus was the first to show that similar effects could be produced by particles floating freely in fluid. Then, in 1993, Frenchman Moungi Bawendi, greatly upped the quality of quantum dots by revolutionizing their production through chemical means.
Since that time, quantum dots have found their way into a wide range of technology. Their size dependent, color-changing properties have made them perfect for use in TVs and other QLED displays. But their use also extends into the fields of imaging and biomedicine as well, with the particles even holding out the promise of functioning as cancer-finding agents, super-small carriers for cancer-drugs and destroyers of drug-resistant bacteria. Quantum dots have also allowed for significant advances in solar technology and they are shaping up to be a critical component of quantum computing systems.
"Today it is possible to produce quantum dots with highly controlled, size-dependent properties using relatively low-cost, solution-phase batch chemistries that make these revolutionary materials widely available," wrote the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the body that has awarded the prize.
"With an estimated total market size of US$4 billion in 2021, quantum dots are used as high-quality light emitters in illumination and in display technology, as well as for biomedical imaging. Ongoing nanotechnology research also explores applications of quantum dots in infrared photodetection, solar energy conversion, light-emitting diodes, diagnostics and photocatalysis."
The three researchers who've won the award will each split a prize of 11 million Swedish kronor, or just under US$1 million. The prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Stockholm on December 10. The announcement this week joins that of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Source: Nobel Prize