The Nobel committee illuminates the significance of quantum dots with their award in chemistry.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2023 – The 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus, and Alexei Ekimov “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.”
“The Nobel Committee has once again affirmed we are living in a Quantum Age,” said Michael Moloney, CEO of the American Institute of Physics. “The 2022 and 2023 physics prizes, as well as this year’s chemistry prize, are rooted in the power of quantum mechanics. This chemistry prize acknowledges that electrons’ behavior at the nanoscale has real-world applications. Quantum dots enable us to harness the potential of quantum effects, exemplifying that physics at the smallest scales brings tangible benefits to our daily lives.”
Quantum dots are the common name for semiconductor nanoparticles, tiny objects only a few atoms across whose properties are governed by the principles of quantum mechanics. As early as the 1930s, physicists theorized small nanoparticles could exhibit size-dependent quantum properties. However, it would take half a century before the 2023 Nobel honorees succeeded in fabricating such small nanoparticles.
When excited by ultraviolet light, quantum dots glow brightly in a single color determined by their size. This has led to their adoption in modern QLED displays, lasers, and as fluorescent dyes in biological and medical imaging. Their electronic properties make quantum dots a valuable tool in applications such as quantum computing, solar cells, and optical electronics.
“Between the methods of synthesis and control involved and the considerable effort to understand fundamental properties at the quantum scale, the research behind this prize sits at the fascinating intersection of chemistry and physics,” said Penelope Lewis, Chief Publishing Officer at AIP Publishing. “Thanks to Bawendi, Brus, and Ekimov, quantum dots have sparked scientific curiosity for decades. Their development of this entirely new type of material — with characteristics independent of its molecular properties — has ushered in realms of new understanding and led to innumerable advances in bioengineering, medical imaging and diagnostics, catalysis, displays, and sensors, to name just a few.”
Alexei Ekimov works as a scientist at Nanocrystals Technology Inc. In the early 1980s, he became the first person to synthesize quantum dots. He grew semiconductor microcrystals in a glassy matrix to realize quantum dots and observe their electronic and optical properties.
Louis Brus is the S. L. Mitchell Professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. In 1983, he successfully synthesized quantum dots in an aqueous solution and developed a theory to describe their behavior, publishing a series of papers in the Journal of Chemical Physics.
Moungi Bawendi is the Lester Wolfe Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1993, his group developed the rapid injection method for producing quantum dots. This method was essential for creating uniform, consistent nanoparticles for practical applications and is still the most widely used method to manufacture quantum dots.
“The field of quantum mechanics has grown exponentially since its inception. This and recent Nobel prizes provide us the opportunity to celebrate these laureates, their discoveries and highlight a century of progress,” said Moloney. “We’re looking forward to celebrating Quantum’s centennial with the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology in 2025.”
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