Dr. Phaedon Avouris of IBM and Professor Tony Heinz of Columbia University were presented with the 2008 Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics on 27 September 2008 during a day-long forum at Harvard University, attended by luminaries of the field. The Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics recognizes researchers who have made an outstanding and innovative contribution to the field of applied physics. The forum was sponsored by the scientific publisher Springer.
Avouris and Heinz were honored for their pioneering work on the electrical and optical properties of nanoscale carbon materials. Carbon nanotubes, first reported in 1991, and graphene, which was even more recently discovered in 2004, have attracted a vibrant community of researchers intent on characterizing these new materials.
Carbon nanotubes and graphene show promise for a number of applications. One of the most exciting possibilities is that these materials could integrate electronics and optics, which could allow light to replace electricity in computers. This would allow faster calculations (since light moves far faster than electrons) and would eradicate some of today's problems with electronics, including chip-to-chip bottlenecks.
Heinz said, "This new set of materials is completely different from the materials that form the basis for today's computers and communications technologies. This is a very exciting time to explore the fundamental properties of these materials." His co-winner agreed: "We are looking at electronics after silicon," said Avouris. "Wouldn't it be nice to unify electronics and optics with a single material?"
Heinz continued, "It is extremely important that ideas in one subfield enhance other fields. That's encouraged by having a broad set of talks, like we had here today at the forum."
Other potential applications include photovoltaics, sensors and light emitters, and uses in medicine. The current, work, however, is science
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