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Big Prize For Small Dots

Awards: Columbia University’s Louis Brus wins Welch Award for developing nanodots and other nanomaterials

by Stu Borman
May 30, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 22

Credit: Columbia University
Louis Brus
Credit: Columbia University

Small things sometimes have big consequences. Such is the case with nanodots—semiconducting colloidal nanocrystals that are being exploited for a range of molecular electronics and other applications. These tiny dots, also called quantum dots, not only have had a big impact in the field of chemistry but have now led to a big prize for the researcher who first developed them.

Louis E. Brus, Samuel Latham Mitchill Professor of Chemistry and professor of chemical engineering at Columbia University, is being honored with the 2013 Welch Award in Chemistry for developing nanodots and pioneering the semiconductor nanomaterials field. The annual prize includes $300,000 and a gold medallion.

Nanodots are used today to design solar cells, as biological tags for imaging, and in other advanced molecular electronics devices. Brus’s group devised nanodots and helped establish the field of nanochemistry by developing “the basic models, mechanisms, and methods for nanocrystal synthesis, processing, and characterization,” the Welch Foundation notes.

Brus’s group currently uses microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to study the optical and electronic properties of nanocrystals, carbon nanotubes, and graphene to further advance these technologies.

Brus did undergraduate work at Rice University and was commissioned as a U.S. Navy ensign. Afterward, he earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Columbia. After conducting research for four years at the Naval Research Laboratory and a subsequent 23 years at Bell Labs, he returned to Columbia in 1996. His previous honors include the Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, the ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials, and the inaugural Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.

“Lou Brus has the incredible distinction of having invented a new field of chemistry,” Ronald Breslow, scientific codirector of the Columbia Nanocenter, tells C&EN. “His discovery of quantum dots was critical in getting us all to realize that nanoscience is not just small but also novel and exciting.”



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