This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to US-based scientists Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for the discovery and development of so-called quantum dots. The Swedish Academy of Sciences honored the researchers on Wednesday in Stockholm for their work on the nanoparticles, “which are so small that their size determines their properties,” the statement said.

Quantum dots are semiconducting nanocrystals that typically have a diameter of two to ten nanometers. They can convert the spectrum of incoming light into a different energy frequency and are used in modern LED television screens, solar panels and medical imaging. There they can guide surgeons in removing tumors.

Bawendi, who was born in France, works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US researcher Louis Brus at Columbia University and the Russian-born Alexei Ekimov at the company Nanocrystals Technology. The three prize winners were not previously considered favorites. Rather, experts had suggested that research in synthetic biology or DNA sequencing could be awarded.

The names of the scientists had already been leaked hours before the official announcement. The Swedish newspaper “Dagens Nyheter”, the public broadcaster SVT and the Swedish science magazine “NyTeknik” unanimously named the winners, citing a press release from the Swedish Academy of Sciences, which, however, could not be found on the academy’s website. The academy then assured that the decision on this year’s winners had not yet been made.

The Nobel Prize is endowed with eleven million Swedish crowns (around 920,000 euros) and will be awarded on December 10th in Stockholm.

This year’s Nobel Prize season began on Monday with the announcement of the winners for medicine. The prize winners in the field of physics followed on Tuesday, including the Hungarian-Austrian physicist Ferenc Krausz, who researches in Munich. The Nobel Prize for Literature follows on Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the award for economics on Monday.

Last year, the two US researchers Carolyn Bertozzi and Barry Sharpless as well as the Dane Morten Meldal were honored for the development of bioorthogonal chemistry and click chemistry.