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Kavli prize honors nanotechnology researchers

Two researchers were rewarded with the 2008 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience for their pioneering discoveries of quantum dots and carbon nanotubes, two of the most exciting and promising nanotech materials. As described by R. Colin Johnson at EE Times in “Nanotech pioneers win Kavli Prize“:

Two nanotechnology pioneers were honored this week with the Kavli Prize, a $3 million award shared among seven recipients. The winners were announced … during the World Science Summit at Columbia University in New York.

The Kavli Prize, worth $1 million each in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience, are awarded every other year.

The nanotechnology prizes went to: Louis Brus, who discovered semiconductor nanocrystals know as quantum dots in the 1980s while at Bell Laboratories; and Sumio Iijima, who discovered nanotubes in 1991 while working at NEC Corp. Brus is now a professor at Columbia University and Iijima is a professor at Meijo University.

Brus was collaborating with researchers at the Yoffe Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, when he discovered nanocrystal semiconductors in colloidal suspensions. His observation of how different semiconducting nanoparticles—now called quantum dots—glowed different colors when excited led to the discovery that quantum confinement explains the correlation between size and color in quantum dots.

Sumio Iijima is credited with the discovery of nanotubes, even though they had already been observed earlier. Iijima authored a seminal 1991 paper which seeded the field now called nanotechnology. As the fourth form of carbon (after graphite, diamonds and fullerenes, spherical carbon-60, also called buckyballs), nanotubes measure only a few nanometers in diameter, but can be microns long.

Nanotubes promise to revolutionize semiconductors by providing ultra-small interconnects and ultra-fast transistor channels.

—Jim

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