The development of quantum dots wins the 2023 Nobel prize in chemistry

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Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov split the prize for their work in creating nanoparticles whose properties depend on their size.

Work on tiny dots that light up TV screens and help doctors see the blood vessels that feed tumors has earned three scientists the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

When quantum dots are irradiated by light, electrons within get energized, eventually releasing that energy as fluorescent light. The smaller the dots are, the more they compress the wave function of an electron, increasing its energy so that the dot appears blue. Larger dots appear red. Then, in the early 1980s, Ekimov and Brus independently showed that it could be done. Ekimov, now at Nanocrystals Technology, Inc., in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., demonstrated this in glass, adding copper chloride to produce tiny crystals and revealing that the color of the glass was linked to the size of those crystals.

Bawendi started working on quantum dots after he met Brus at Nokia Bell Labs, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J. The researchers needed high quality quantum dots to study the physics of the nanoparticles, Bawendi said. “It wasn’t because I wanted to make the best quantum dots possible for application, it was because we needed to make the best possible quantum dots to study them.” It took years of trial and error to work out the method, he said.


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