2008 Nanoscience Laureate Biographies

The Kavli Prize - Nanoscience

Louis E. Brus

Louis E. BrusLouis E. Brus, the son of an insurance salesman, had to juggle his early passion for physical chemistry with learning the basics of warfare at sea as he entered Rice University in Houston, Texas, on a Naval Reserves Officer Training Corps scholarship. On graduating in 1965 he was commissioned as a junior officer but thankfully his superiors agreed to a four-year leave of absence to allow him to carry out post-graduate research. He began his doctoral studies at Columbia University, New York, and worked, for his thesis, with mentor Richard Bersohn on the photodissociation of sodium iodide vapour.

After receiving his doctorate in physical chemistry in 1969, Brus entered the Navy as a lieutenant and served as a scientific staff officer at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. He and colleagues studied which gases and reactions produced the best conditions for the use of infrared chemical lasers. After leaving to work at the company AT&T Bell Laboratories, Brus’s focus shifted to gaining a fundamental understanding of energy flows in solids, specifically how excited electronic energy becomes vibrational and heat energy over time.

The work on colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, or quantum dots, that led to his being recognized as one of the leading researchers in the field of nanoscience began in the early 1980s when he began studying liquids at room temperature. A key discovery came in 1983 when he noticed how conductivity changed with the particle size of materials. Brus returned to Columbia University as a Professor in 1996. His fundamental research contributions have been recognized in recent years with the Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics from the American Physical Society in 2001, election to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and the 2005 Chemistry of Materials Prize from the American Chemical Society.

Sumio Iijima

Sumio IijimaSumio Iijima studied at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and completed his PhD in physics at Tohoku University, in Sendai, before moving to Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona. In postdoctoral research and later as a research scientist from 1970 to 1982, he worked on high-resolution electron microscopy. Iijima revealed the first electron micrograph showing atoms in a crystal. He developed a new electron microscope that could view the structure of materials at the atomic level. In 1977 he achieved a long-term goal of electron microscopy when he was able to observe individual tungsten atoms. He carried out electron microscopy of graphite while working as a visiting scholar at Cambridge University in 1979.

Iijima moved back to Japan in 1982. He has been a Research Fellow at NEC Corporation since 1987 and published his seminal work on carbon nanotubes in 1991. Although carbon nanotubes had previously been observed, his paper generated unprecedented interest and stimulated a great deal of further research in the field.

Iijimas has been a Professor at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan, since 1999. He has received close to three dozen awards and prizes for his research including the Asahi Award in 1996, the Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize in 2001, and the McGroddy Materials Prize in 2002 from the American Physical Society, as well as the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, also in 2002.

Remarks Before the Kavli Prize Banquet

On the evening of September 9, 2008, the Norwegian government held a banquet at Oslo's City Hall celebrating the Kavli Prize and honoring the inaugural laureates. Speaking on behalf of fellow laureate Sumio Iijima and himself, Louis E. Brus provided these remarks.

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