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The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023: Quantum Dots

By: Mila (Y13)

The 2023 Chemistry Nobel Prize was awarded to Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus and Aleksey Yekimov for their contributions to the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots.

Quantum dots are nanoparticles that can catalyse chemical reactions and have unique properties, dependant on their size. In terms of size, quantum dots have the same relationship to a football as a football does to the size of the Earth. At such a small scale, the relative sizes of particles lead to significant differences in properties of a material; for example, quantum dots can have different colours depending on their size.

In the past, there has been some, but not extensive, research into quantum phenomena; this enabled the 2023 Nobel Laureates to make significant steps towards developing quantum dots for application in today’s world as they created particles with properties determined by quantum phenomena, due to their miniscule size. It was previously known that ‘size-dependant quantum effects’ could arise in nanoparticles and in 1926 Erwin Schrödinger suggested a wave equation that accurately calculated the energy levels of electrons in atoms. However, in the early 1980s, Aleksey Yekimov successfully produced ‘size dependant quantum effects’ in coloured glass, with the colour coming from nanoparticles of copper chloride. This demonstrated that particle size affected the colour of the glass, due to quantum effects.

Only a few years later, Louis E. Brus became the first scientist in the world to prove size dependant quantum effects in particles flowing freely in fluid. Following this, in 1993 Moungi G. Bawendi transformed the manufacture of quantum dots, producing almost perfect particles. This level of quality is highly desirable for application of quantum dots and has already proven effective in a variety of everyday uses. For example, we now utilise quantum dots in QLED technology to illuminate computer monitors, television screens and adding nuance to the light of some LED lamps. As well as this, Doctors and Biochemists are able to use quantum dots in order to map biological tissue, which has proven invaluable for surgeons locating tumour tissue in patients.

With such a promising and rapid start, quantum dots are bound to continue contributing to everyday life. Scientists hope to see the further development of quantum dots in use in flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and even encrypted quantum communication.

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