Four Americans among Nobel honorees in physics, chemistry

By CURT SUPLEE

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry were awarded today to six scientists — four of them Americans — whose work helped make the modern "information age" possible.

The physics prize went to Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments for co-inventing the integrated circuit, or computer chip, and to Zhores Alferov of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Herbert Kroemer of the University of California at Santa Barbara, who together pioneered the use of novel designs to create today’s high-speed transistors and tiny lasers.

Thanks to that research, high-tech chips are able to process information as fast as 600 billion units per second, low-energy laser beams are used in scores of everyday applications, from supermarket check-out counters to portable CD players, and microelectronic devices are employed in a huge range of fields, from medicine to astronomy.

"The 1947 invention of the transistor (which won the 1956 Nobel Prize for Physics) by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley gave us what became the "nerve cell" ofthe information age," said Stanford University physicist Michael Riordan, co-author of Crystal Fire, a history of the transistor.

"But that was not enough. Alferov, Kroemer and Kilby figured out novel ways to make advanced transistors and semiconductor lasers-and how to assemble them into the miniature electronic nervous systems we recognize today as microchips," he said.

"This is a significant recognition by the Nobel committee that engineering contributions in one area can further scientific investigation for all," said one of Kilby’s former co-workers, Howard R. Ruff of Sematech, a semiconductor research consortium in Texas.

The chemistry prize was won by Alan Heeger of UCSB, Alan MacDiarmid of the University of Pennsylvania and Hideki Shirakawa of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, for "their discovery and development of conductive polymers" — plastics that carry electrical currents almost as easily as metals.

Those materials, familiar to the public in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and anti-static devices such as computer-area carpeting, are expected to provide such future innovations as smart windows that block out sunlight and low-power video screens that could be as large as a wall and as thin as wallpaper.

"We’re very excited," said Daryle Busch, president of the American Chemical Society, "because this award is in the old tradition. That is, it was given for work that is probably going to have a very substantial impact on society, and from which people will perhaps benefit greatly over the long term."

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside WSP District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed in a collision on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. A Lynnwood driver, 32, was arrested.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.