The Nobel Prize in Physics could focus on light

Last year, 12 men and one woman won Nobel Prizes, and all scientific nods went to men.  - France Press agency
Last year, 12 men and one woman won Nobel Prizes, and all scientific nods went to men. – France Press agency

Stockholm: Among the discoveries expected to win the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday, bending and manipulating light to make objects invisible or harnessing it more efficiently to produce electricity.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is due to announce the winner at 11:45 am (0945 GMT).

Last year, the Academy honored Siokuro Manabe of Japan and the United States, and Germany’s Klaus Hesselmann for their research on climate models, while Italy’s Giorgio Parisi also won for his work on the interaction of chaos and fluctuations in physical systems.

David Pendlebury, president of Clarivate – an organization that closely monitors potential science winners – said the committee is likely to remain this year’s floor.

“There have been a lot of astrophysics and cosmology prizes just in the past few years. So I don’t think that’s on the table this year,” he told AFP.

He said it was likely Briton John B Pendry, best known for his “invisibility cloak”, where he uses materials to bend light to make objects invisible.

Other potential winners are Sajeev John and American Eli Yablonovitch, who in 1987 discovered photonic crystals that could control and manipulate the flow of light.

PV cells?

Ulrika Björkstein, a science commentator for Swedish Public Radio, said the academy could also focus on photovoltaics: converting light into electricity.

Björkstein said that work on perovskite — a material discovered in the 19th century by Russian mineralogist Lev Perovsky — may be recognised.

This may point the academy toward Britain’s Henry Snaith, a professor of physics at Oxford University, who is developing new materials and structures for hybrid solar cells.

The relatively recent discovery that metal halide perovskite can work very efficiently in thin-film solar cells makes it competitive, Björkstein said.

“It was the reason for the great interest in perovskite,” Björkstein told AFP.

Namgyo Park in South Korea could also be a candidate for his research into improving the stability of photovoltaic cells.

On the other hand, photovoltaic specialists are likely to be overlooked because the field is so vast, according to Bjorksten.

“It’s really hard…because there are a lot of people involved,” Björkstein said.

Microphysics expert Stephen Quake could be considered for work on microscopic fluid dynamics, said Linus Proholt, editor of the Science Office at Swedish public broadcaster SVT.

The woman is absent

Only four women – Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert-Mayer (1963), Donna Strickland (2018) and Andrea Geese (2020) – have won the Nobel Prize in Physics since its founding in 1901.

“It reflects the unfair conditions in society, particularly in past years but still exist,” Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, told AFP last year.

However, quotas have been excluded.

“We want every winner to be accepted…because they made the most important discovery, not because of gender or race,” Hanson said.

Last year, 12 men and one woman won Nobel Prizes, and all scientific nods went to men.

The physics prize is followed by the chemistry prize on Wednesday, with the much-anticipated literature and peace prizes announced on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

For the literature prize, critics told AFP they believe the Swedish Academy may choose a more popular author this year, after selecting a lesser-known book over the past two years.

Last year, Tanzanian writer Abdul Razak Jarna won, while American poet Louise Gluck was crowned 2020.

The Peace Prize is expected to be particularly significant this year given the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court, tasked with investigating war crimes in Ukraine, has been cited as the likely winner this year, along with imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikanovskaya.

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