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Nobel chemistry prize winners for work on quantum dots leaked early, and then announced

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to three U.S.-based scientists for the "discovery and synthesis of quantum dots." Sweden's public broadcaster SVT said they received a press release with the names of the winners hours before the official announcement.

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says it regrets press release sent early 'for unknown reasons'

The headshots of three men are shown on a projected screen.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry has awarded on Wednesday to three U.S.-based scientists for the "discovery and synthesis of quantum dots."

The prize was awarded to scientists Moungi Bawendi from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Louis Brus of Columbia University and Alexi Ekimov from Nanocrystals Technology Inc.

The trio were recognized for their work with the tiny particles that are just a few atoms in diameter and whose electrons have constrained movement. This effects how they absorb and release visible light, allowing for very bright colours. They are used in many electronics, like LED displays, and can be utilized to assist cancer surgeons.

"These tiny particles have unique properties and now spread their light from television screens and LED lamps. They catalyze chemical reactions and their clear light can illuminate tumour tissue for a surgeon," according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which announced the award in Stockholm.

Multicoloured lab tubes are shown in an array.

The announcement came after Sweden's public broadcaster SVT said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences may have announced the winners prematurely. SVT said the academy sent a press release by mistake early Wednesday that contained the names of those honoured.

"There was a press release sent out for still unknown reasons. We have been very active this morning to find out exactly what happened," Hans Ellegren, the secretary general of the academy, told the news conference where the award was announced.

"This is very unfortunate, we do regret what happened."

Bawendi said via phone he was awakened by the Swedish academy and was unaware of the leak. He was also surprised to be a winner.

"It's a field that a lot of people have contributed to since its beginning," he said.

Peace Prize revealed on Friday

The academy, which awards the physics, chemistry and economics prizes, asks for nominations a year in advance from thousands of university professors and other scholars around the world.

A committee for each prize then discusses candidates in a series of meetings throughout the year. At the end of the process, the committee presents one or more proposals to the full academy for a vote. The deliberations, including the names of nominees other than the winners, are kept confidential.

In 1993, chemistry laureate Moungi Bawendi revolutionised the methods for manufacturing quantum dots, making their quality extremely high – a vital prerequisite for their use in today’s nanotechnology.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NobelPrize?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NobelPrize</a> <a href="https://t.co/VSkyvr47l0">pic.twitter.com/VSkyvr47l0</a>

&mdash;@NobelPrize

The Nobel Prize was created by wealthy Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who in his will dictated that his estate should be used to fund "prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind." The first awards were given out in 1901.

Winners of this year's Nobel Prizes will get an extra 1 million crowns compared to last year, partly because the Swedish crown has lost around 30 per cent of its value against the euro the past decade. The prize money of 11 million Swedish crowns is the equivalent of $1.36 million Cdn.

The chemistry honours follow Nobel announcements so far this week in medicine and physics. The literature prize will be announced on Thursday, with the Nobel Peace Prize winner to be revealed on Friday.

The economics prize is announced on Oct. 9.

The Nobel prizes are presented to the laureates on Dec. 10.

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