3 scientists win Nobel in chemistry for quantum dots research used in electronics, medical imaging

This combo image shows Professor Emeritus Louis Brus, left, Alexei Ekimov of Nanocrystals Technology Inc., center, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist Moungi Bawendi. (AP Photo)

STOCKHOLM — Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for their work on quantum dots — tiny particles just a few nanometers in diameter that can release very bright colored light and whose applications in everyday life include electronics and medical imaging.

Moungi Bawendi of MIT, Louis Brus of Columbia University, and Alexei Ekimov of Nanocrystals Technology Inc., were honored for their work with the tiny particles that “have unique properties and now spread their light from television screens and LED lamps,” according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which announced the award in Stockholm.

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Quantum dots are tiny inorganic particles that glow a range of colors from red to blue when exposed to light. The color they emit depends upon the size of the particle.

Scientists can engineer the dots from materials that include gold, graphene and cadmium, and create their color by controlling their size. The tiniest particles, in which electrons are most tightly confined, emit blue light. Slightly larger particles, in which electrons bounce around a longer wavelength, emit red light.

In the 1980s, Ekimov, 78, and Brus, 80, honed the theory and developed early laboratory techniques for creating particles that emit varying colors by adjusting sizes. In 1993, Bawendi, 62, developed new chemical methods for producing the particles quickly and uniformly.

Today quantum dots are commonly used in electronics displays and biomedical imaging. The florescent quality of the particles allows researchers to track how drugs are delivered within the human body, as well as to study the precise location and growth of a tumor, for example.

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