Welch Award News Release

David Evans, 2012 Welch Award Recipient

Nanoscience pioneer honored with
2013 Welch Award
Brus discovered nanodots, created field of nanochemistry

HOUSTON, Oct. 28, 2013 – One of the most important physical chemists of his generation, Louis E. Brus will receive the 2013 Welch Award in Chemistry at a black-tie banquet here this evening. A nanoscience pioneer and a founder of the field of semiconductor nanomaterials, Dr. Brus created colloidal quantum dots, or nanodots, and continues to expand our knowledge of nanocrystals and nanowires. His basic research has spurred advances in such applications as semiconductors, molecular electronic devices, solar cells and biological tags for imaging.

The Houston-based Welch Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry, presents the prestigious international award, which includes $300,000 and a gold medallion, each year.

“Dr. Brus is an incredibly broad-ranging and influential scientist,” said Wilhelmina E. (Beth) Robertson, chair of The Welch Foundation. “He changed the way the world science community thinks about nanoscience, with many physical chemists now following in his footsteps and focusing on chemical synthesis, advanced physical characterization and theoretical exploration of nanostructures.”

Dr. Brus is best known for his discovery of colloidal quantum dots, semiconductor nanocrystals with unusual electronic and physical properties that make them useful for applications ranging from microelectronics and optical devices to quantum computing and medical imaging. His work demonstrated that the properties of very small particles differ from their larger versions, establishing nanochemistry as a distinct field, and that nanocrystals’ size and shape dictate their color and electronic properties. With collaborators and students, he developed the basic models, mechanisms and methods for nanocrystal synthesis, processing and characterization used across nanoscience research today.

“Louis Brus has drawn upon his training in chemistry, physics and mathematics to create a field of chemical research,” said Marye Anne Fox, chair of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. “He has combined discovery, chemical synthesis, characterization, theoretical modeling and laser spectroscopy to understand nanostructures. By demonstrating that nanochemistry is not just macromolecular science on a smaller scale, but a field in itself, he has opened up rich new avenues of research ultimately leading to advances that improve human life.”

In current research, Dr. Brus is exploring the optical and electronic properties of nanocrystals, nanowires and carbon nanotubes using microscopy and Raman spectroscopy techniques. His goal is to understand the size evolution of solid-state properties from molecular properties and to create new materials with nanoscale structure by both kinetic and thermodynamic self-assembly.

“I am a member of the Sputnik generation, an exciting time for science and discovery, and was blessed to be able to freely explore new ideas and new chemistry,” said Dr. Brus, the Samuel Latham Mitchell Professor of Chemistry and professor of chemical engineering at Columbia University. “Over the past two centuries, curiosity-driven research has led, eventually and inexorably, to new technologies that have hugely improved our lives. Yet, discoveries and new knowledge are often unpredictable in their applications. For example, we first thought that semiconductor nanocrystals would be used in transistors; instead, their first application was for biological imaging. Basic research is best supported by society as a whole, and I am very proud to accept an award from The Welch Foundation, an organization that has long valued and supported basic research.”

Growing up in the Midwest, Dr. Brus attended Rice University on an ROTC scholarship and spent his summers as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. After graduation, he was commissioned as an ensign and delayed service to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Columbia. He spent four years in the Naval Research Laboratory before joining the chemistry section of Bell Labs in 1973. In 1996, he returned to Columbia to continue his research and teach. The author of 250 papers, he has been recognized with the Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics, the American Chemical Society’s Chemistry of Materials Prize, the R.W. Wood Prize from the Optical Society of America, and the Inaugural Kavli Prize in Nanoscience, among many others.

Dr. Brus and his wife Marilyn have three children: Christina, Elizabeth and Michael.

The Welch Foundation advances science through research and departmental grants, funding of endowed chairs, an annual chemical conference and support for other chemistry-related programs. In addition to the Welch Award, the Foundation annually bestows the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research to recognize the accomplishments of chemical scientists in Texas who are early in their research careers. Since its founding in 1954, Welch has contributed more than $744 million as part of its mission to support the basic chemical research that improves life.

For more information on the Foundation and a list of previous Welch Award recipients, please visit www.welch1.org.

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