Issue Date: June 2, 2008
Kavli Prize Winners
ON MAY 28, the Kavli Foundation awarded its Kavli Prize in Nanoscience to Louis Brus, a professor of chemistry at Columbia University, and Sumio Iijima, a professor of materials science and engineering at Meijo University, in Japan. This is the first year that the Oxnard, Calif.-based foundation has awarded its biannual $1 million prizes, which recognize influential researchers in astrophysics, neuroscience, and nanoscience.
Brus and Iijima will share the cash prize for having "transformed human knowledge" in colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots) and carbon nanotubes, respectively.
The rise of the computer industry helped to fuel Brus's research in quantum dots, the Kavli Foundation says. As the industry demanded smaller and smaller semiconductors for transistors, Brus began to work at the nanoscale to meet this demand.
Fields such as biology and medicine have adopted quantum dot technology for applications ranging from labeling individual cells to treating tumors.
Iijima is being recognized for discovering needle-shaped carbon nanotubes only 2–50 atoms thick, the Kavli Foundation says. Despite their size, these nanotubes are stronger than steel and have been used to reinforce sports equipment, construction materials, and other products. And their semiconductor properties have made them useful in electronics and sensors.
"It's good to see them win," University of California, San Diego, bioengineer Gabriel Silva says of Brus and Iijima. "The biggest indicator of what they've done is the breadth of applications that have used these [quantum dot and carbon nanotube] technologies."
This year's astrophysics prize went to Maarten Schmidt, professor of astronomy at Caltech, and Donald Lynden-Bell, professor of astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, for their work on quasars. The neuroscience prize was shared by Sten Grillner, professor and director of the Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology at the Karolinska Institute; Thomas Jessell, professor of neuroscience and molecular biology and molecular biophysics at Columbia University; and Pasko Rakic, professor of neurobiology and neurology at Yale University, for their work on neuronal circuitry.
Philanthropist Fred Kavli was born and educated in Norway and moved to the U.S. to found the electronics company Kavlico. In 2000, Kavli used the money from the sale of Kavlico to start the Kavli Foundation to promote excellence in scientific research. Besides funding the Kavli Prize, the foundation also supports numerous research institutes and academic department chairs.
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