Dr. Sumio Iijima (Senior Research Fellow at NEC Corporation, Professor of Meijo University, Research Director of the International Cooperative Research Project at the Japan Science and Technology Corporation [JST], and Director of the Research Center for Advanced Carbon Materials at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology [AIST]) has been selected to receive the 2002 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics by the Benjamin Franklin Institute (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA).
The award is for “the discovery and elucidation of the atomic structure and helical character of multi-wall and single-wall carbon nanotubes, which have had an enormous impact on the rapidly growing condensed matter and materials science field of nanoscale science and electronics.” The awards ceremony will be held on 25 April 2002 at the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial in Philadelphia. A commemorative symposium will be held at the same time.
The Benjamin Franklin Medals have been presented every year since 1824 by the Institute at the bequest of Benjamin Franklin, to recognize achievements in science and technology in the following disciplines: life science, engineering, earth science, chemistry, physics, and computer and cognitive science.
The Benjamin Franklin Institute was established in 1824 to commemorate Benjamin Franklin, famous for his experiment on electrical discharge by flying a kite in a thunderstorm. The Institute is a non-profit organization, based in Philadelphia, whose mission is to work toward the public understanding of science and the promotion of education and achievement in science and technology.
The present system of awarding Benjamin Franklin Medals was established in 1998 to combine the various different Franklin Institute Awards given previously. Past Franklin Institute Award Laureates have included Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Enrico Fermi, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain. More recent Laureates include Eric Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle, Carl Wieman, and Robert B. Laughlin.
This is one of the most prestigious awards in physics in the world, as many recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics have also been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, including Horst Stormer, Daniel C. Tsui, William Phillips, Carl Wieman, Serge Haroche, and Herbert Walther. There have been three previous Japanese winners of a Franklin Institute Award: Dr. Akira Tonomura (Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics, 1999), Dr. Leo Esaki (1961), and Dr. Akito Arima (1990).
Dr. Iijima has also been selected to receive the Europhysics Prize for 2001 and the 2002 James C. McGroddy Prize for New Materials from the American Physical Society. Award ceremonies for these prizes will be held in Brighton, UK, and Indianapolis, USA, respectively, between March and April 2002.
Further encouraged by these achievements, the four institutions associated with Dr. Iijima are striving to strengthen our basic research, which will sow the seeds for future technologies, and contribute to the advancement of society by paving the way for new technological disciplines.
Using advanced electron microscopy techniques, in 1991 Dr. Iijima discovered the carbon nanotube, a new form of carbon, in a carbon electrode subjected to arc discharge. The carbon nanotube has a tubular structure with a diameter in the order of nanometres, and is the fourth form of carbon after graphite (2-dimensional structure), diamond (3-dimensional structure), and carbon 60 (C60: spherical structure). Dr. Iijima proposed models for the mechanisms behind nanotube growth and bending, through detailed structural analyses. He also discovered the capillary phenomenon, whereby foreign substances become incorporated into the nanotubes, and synthesized single-wall carbon nanotubes. These studies created a global research boom in the field of carbon nanotechnology. As well as such scientific research, investigations into industrial applications have taken off since the discovery of the carbon nanotube, owing to its unique structure and physical properties. Researchers are focusing on the potential for its use as an efficient electron source because of its microstructure and carbon composition, and various laboratories are developing flat-panel displays that use these properties. The carbon nanotube is also expected to have applications in such fields as ultra-high-strength materials, fuel cells, ultra-sensitive sensors, high-resolution STM probes, catalytic and adsorbent materials, and pharmaceuticals, because of its crystal completeness and microstructure. Dr. Iijima is currently involved in research at NEC, Meijo University, JST, and AIST, and is playing a leading international role in this field. Dr. Iijima has pioneered a new scientific field, from the discovery of the nanotube through basic materials science research to practical applications, and has made a significant impact on both the scientific and industrial communities.
Carbon nanotubes were first discovered as ultra-fine materials in 1991 by Dr. Sumio Iijima, a Senior Research Fellow at NEC’s Tsukuba Laboratories. The carbon nanotube is the fourth form of carbon after graphite (2-dimensional structure), diamond (3-dimensional structure), and carbon 60 (C60: spherical structure).
Carbon nanotubes consist of graphite sheets formed into miniature tubes with a diameter of a few nanometers (109 m). They can have various electrical, mechanical, and chemical properties depending on such factors as whether they are formed from single or multiple layers, their thickness, how the tube is formed (helical character), and tube end forms. In terms of electrical properties, carbon nanotubes can manipulated so that they are either a metal or a semiconductor. Mechanically, carbon nanotubes are light and extremely strong, and have excellent flexibility. Chemically, they have excellent molecular modification and gas adsorption properties. As a result of these properties, these microscopic tubular materials are attracting attention as a key material underpinning the science of nanotechnology.
Potential applications of particular interest include use as electron field-emission elements for flat panel displays and probe tips, battery electrodes, catalyst materials, and electronics elements such as transistors, and for gas occlusion in energy-related technologies. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in carbon nanotube research worldwide, and researchers are now developing applied technologies.