Materials Scientist Alex Zettl Wins Feynman Prize

(Originally published by Berkeley Lab)

January 27, 2014

Alex Zettl of the Materials Sciences Division, and a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley, has won the 2013 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for Nanotechnology Experiment. Named in honor of Nobel laureate Richard Feynman whose seminal essay, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” is widely credited with launching the field of nanoscience, the Feynman prizes — one for theoretical work and one for experimental research — annually recognize scientists whose work has advanced Feynman’s vision. Zettl was cited for his “exceptional work in the fabrication of nanoscale electromechanical systems, spanning multiple decades and including carbon nanotube-based bearings, actuators, and sensors brought to fruition with cutting-edge nanoscale engineering.”

Alex Zettl, Kavli ENSI Member
Alex Zettl of the Materials Sciences Division, and a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

The award recognizes Prof. Zettl's exceptional work in the fabrication of nanoscale electromechanical systems (NEMS), spanning multiple decades and including carbon nanotube-based bearings, actuators, and sensors brought to fruition with cutting-edge nanoscale engineering. Making remarkable strides towards nanoscale integrated systems, Prof Zettl produced a reversible mass transport memory device which integrated a nanoparticle and a nanotube into a more complex functional device with external controllability, and most recently a loudspeaker incorporating a graphene diaphragm, demonstrating that high-performance, nanoscale materials can be engineered into usable products even before those materials are fully characterized. Additional accomplishments of his solid state physics research group include chracterizing electronic, magnetic and mechanical properties of diverse nanoscale materials.

The awards will be presented at the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration, to be held February 7-9, 2014 at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto, CA USA, where the winners will give lectures on their groundbreaking work to leading scientists in the field of nanotechnology.

In awarding the prizes, Ralph C. Merkle, Chairman of the Prize Committee, noted that "The work of these Feynman Prize winners has brought us one step closer to answering Feynman's 1959 question, 'What would happen if we could arrange atoms one by one the way we want them?' The ability to simulate and manipulate atoms advanced by the work of these Prize winners will enable us to design and build engineered molecular machinery with atomic precision. It will take us another step on the way to the development of revolutionary nanotechnologies that will transform our lives for the better."

The annual Feynman Prizes recognize significant advancements on the road to the award of the $250,000 Feynman Grand Prize, an incentive prize that will be awarded to the first researchers to make a nanometer-scale robotic arm and a nanometer-scale computing device, two critical components of an atomic scale molecular manufacturing system.

The Foresight Feynman Prizes were established by the Foresight Institute in 1993 and named in honor of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman whose influential essay, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" inspired the first work on nanoscale science. The Institute awards Feynman prizes each year to recognize researchers—one for theoretical work and one for empirical research—whose recent work has most advanced the field toward the achievement of Feynman's vision for nanotechnology: molecular manufacturing, the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems.

Nanoscience

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