Issue Date: July 4, 2011
Kyoto Prize John Cahn wins for his contributions to materials science
The award recognizes his contributions to alloy materials engineering, including the theory of spinodal decomposition, a phenomenon in which a solution of two or more components separates into distinct phases with different chemical compositions and physical properties. The groundbreaking work contributed to the understanding of phase transformations and led to the creation of multifunctional materials.
The award “was a very pleasant surprise,” Cahn says.
The Kyoto Prize, presented annually by the Inamori Foundation, is Japan’s most prestigious private award for global achievement, honoring significant contributions to the betterment of society.
“This recognition is well deserved, because John has contributed so much to materials science and engineering,” says Frank W. Gayle, chief of the Metallurgy Division at NIST. “From his theories and models, we’ve learned how t he atoms rearrange themselves in materials, like metals, ceramics, and plastics, and it’s those particular arrangements of atoms that give materials the properties” needed to build objects such as smart phones, laptop computers, and airplanes.
Cahn was also involved in the discovery of quasi-periodic crystals, which led to a new understanding of how atoms can arrange themselves and the role of periodicity in nature.
Two other Kyoto Prizes were given: one in basic sciences and one in arts and philosophy.
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