Tiny Tech Treasures Win Nobel Prize
Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov receive the prize for their work on glowing nanoparticles that are used in fields from electronics to surgery
The 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists who figured out how to create and control some of the tiniest structures ever made – quantum dots.
These miniscule semiconducting crystals, made up of just hundreds or thousands of atoms, glow with bright, pure colors when illuminated. By tweaking their size, scientists can tune them to shine any hue of the rainbow.
It’s like having a box of crayons where you can pick any shade you want, explained Nobel laureate Moungi Bawendi. “There’s still a lot of exciting work to be done in this field,” he said.
The colorful dots are more than scientific eye candy. Their tiny size gives them strange quantum properties, allowing them to interact with light in new ways. These capabilities have opened up a world of applications.
Quantum dots already brighten up TV and phone displays. They’re being used to image body tissues and track diseases. In the future, they could lead to ultra-efficient solar panels, or advanced quantum computers.
The three laureates spotted the potential early on. In the 1980s, Alexei Ekimov first saw hints of quantum effects in semiconductor particles. Louis Brus theorized how size would impact their quantum properties.
Then in 1993, Moungi Bawendi developed a way to cook up high-quality dots in precise sizes – a secret sauce that made quantum dots widely usable. For revealing and harnessing the nanotechnology wonders, the Nobel Foundation awarded each scientist one third of the $1 million prize.
So the next time your TV screen glows extra vibrant, or a biologist images a diseased cell, thank the developers of today’s tiny tech treasures. The quantum dot genies are out of the bottle, and they’re set to conjure up all kinds of new magic.