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Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2023


The 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Moungi G. Bawendi, Louis E. Brus and Alexei I. Ekimov for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots. These nanoparticles have wide-ranging applications across fields like electronics, advanced surgery, and quantum computing.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Quantum Dots: A Closer Look
  2. The Nobel-Winning Research on Quantum Dots
  3. Modern-Day Applications of Quantum Dots

Quantum Dots: A Closer Look

  • An element’s properties are typically determined by its electron count.
  • However, when matter shrinks to nano-dimensions, its characteristics become size-dependent.
  • Smaller particles have electrons packed tightly, influencing their properties.
  • At nanoscale, quantum forces prevail, unlike the macroscopic world where gravity and classical physics govern.
  • These size-driven particles are known as quantum dots.
Exploring Quantum Dots
  • Quantum dots are minuscule particles, measuring just a few nanometers in width.
  • Their tiny size grants them distinctive optical attributes.
  • Despite sharing atomic composition with bulk materials, their properties are size-dependent.

The Concept of Quantum Dots

Theoretical Foundation

  • Scientists had long hypothesized the existence of such particles.
  • In the 1970s, physicists discovered that introducing minute quantities of elements like gold, silver, cadmium, sulfur, or selenium into glass could alter its optical properties.
  • While the causes and effects of these changes were understood, the actual synthesis of quantum dots had not been achieved at that time.

The Nobel-Winning Research on Quantum Dots

Dr. Ekimov’s Pioneering Work

  • In the early 1980s, Dr. Ekimov achieved a breakthrough by inducing size-dependent quantum effects in colored glass.
  • Starting in 1979, he conducted research on glasses containing copper chloride, which were heated to high temperatures and then cooled.
  • Different preparation methods resulted in varying light absorption properties.
  • This variation was attributed to the formation of tiny copper chloride crystals during the process, with crystals of different sizes interacting with light in distinct ways.

Dr. Brus’ Advancements

  • In 1983, Dr. Brus and his colleagues took a significant step forward by synthesizing similar crystals in a liquid solution, as opposed to in glass.
  • This approach provided greater control and allowed for more detailed examination of the crystals.
  • These liquid-formed crystals also exhibited varying light interactions based on their size variations.

Dr. Bawendi’s Definitive Technique

  • Finally, in 1993, Dr. Bawendi developed a precise method to create well-defined quantum dots with high optical quality.
  • The process involved injecting a substance (from which the quantum dot would be constructed) into a hot solvent and then heating the solution.
  • Nanocrystals naturally began to form, with the duration of heating influencing their size.
  • The solvent played a crucial role in ensuring the crystals had smooth outer surfaces.
  • This straightforward technique made it accessible for numerous scientists to produce and study the quantum dots they needed.

Modern-Day Applications of Quantum Dots

Enhancing Visual Displays
  • Quantum dots play a crucial role in illuminating computer monitors and television screens.
  • Quantum dot technology is employed in displays known as QLED, where “Q” signifies quantum dots.
  • Blue LEDs located behind the screen excite these quantum dots, leading to the emission of diverse colors.
  • The combination of these colors results in a wider range of hues and increased brightness.
  • Quantum dots are also utilized in select LED lamps to adjust the color temperature of the light, making it either energizing like daylight or soothing like dimmed bulb glow.
Biochemistry and Medicine
  • In the realm of biochemistry and medicine, nanoscale quantum dots are utilized to map biological tissues.
  • Quantum dots find applications in certain cancer treatments by facilitating targeted drug delivery and therapeutic interventions.
  • Medical professionals are exploring the potential of quantum dots for tracking tumor tissue within the body, with broader implications in the field of nanomedicine.
Other Diverse Applications
  • Quantum dots enhance the absorption and efficiency of photovoltaic cells, aiding in the conversion of solar light into electricity.
  • As security markers, quantum dots are employed on currency and documents as a potent anti-counterfeit measure.
  • In a broader context, quantum dots serve as fluorescent markers for tagging and tracking various objects and substances, offering versatility across multiple industries.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024