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Researcher honored for experimental work in nanotechnology

October 19th, 2009

Air Force-funded researcher, Dr. Óscar Custance from the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan has been chosen for the 2009 Feynman Prize for Experimental Work in Nanotechnology for his research in atomic-scale precision.

The results of this research could someday lead to more effective catalysts for the production of hydrogen fuel.

This year's prize for experimental work will be awarded in January 2010 near Palo Alto, California along with a prize for theory. Both have been awarded annually since 1993 by the Foresight Institute in honor of Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman.

The Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology recognize researchers 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.

For the past two years, the Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (AOARD), an international detachment of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, has been supporting Custance's research to develop catalysts that use an atomic-scale-precision technique to place active gold atoms at an exact location on or near the surface of a model system. For the purpose of this research, Custance is studying the system of gold on cerium dioxide, or ceria.

"Gold has become an exciting element to study for its catalytic properties," explains Dr. Thomas Erstfeld, AOARD program manager. "It was once thought of as relatively inert, but in the past couple of years, it has been discovered that nano-sized gold particles are excellent catalysts."

Custance will share the award with Professors Yoshiaki Sugimoto and Masayuki Abe of Osaka University in recognition of their pioneering experimental demonstrations of mechanosynthesis for vertical and lateral manipulation of single atoms on semiconductor surfaces.

Their work, published in Nature, Science and other prestigious scientific journals, has demonstrated a level of control over the ability to identify and position atoms on surfaces at room temperature, which opens up new possibilities for the manufacture of atomically precise structures.

Source: Air Force Office of Scientific Research

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