Ruzicka Prize for Electricity Generating Materials and LEDs

This year the Ruzicka Prize goes to Maria Ibáñez and Chih-Jen Shih. The prize is awarded for the improved synthesis of materials that can generate electricity from waste heat and for the development of new LEDs with an unachieved color spectrum for the next generation of displays.

Ruzicka Prize
ETH professor Chih-Jen Shih (left) and postdoc Maria Ibáñez (Photograph: ETH Zurich)

Recognizing their pioneering results, ETH Zurich awards the Ruzicka Prize to two scientists of the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences (D-CHAB): Maria Ibáñez, postdoc in the group of ETH professor Maksym Kovalenko, receives the prize for the improved synthesis of materials that can generate electricity from waste heat. Chih-Jen Shih, a professor at the Institute for Chemical and Bioengineering, receives the prize for the development of LEDs with an unachieved color spectrum for the next generation of displays. Both researchers receive a prize money of 5000 Swiss francs and the Ruzicka medal.

Generation of Electricity from Heat

Cars, laptops, refrigerators, and even cell phones: any device we use produces heat and thereby wastes a lot of energy. This heat can be recycled and converted to electricity by thermoelectric devices. Such devices are made of nanomaterials whose efficiency strongly depend on their molecular structure. Maria Ibáñez, who joined the group of Maksym Kovalenko, a professor at ETH Zurich and Empa, in 2014, successfully developed precisely designed nanocrystals to create nanocomposites with well-defined composition and structure. “My research allows me to create an endless variety of nanocomposites by simply blending nanocrystals in the effort to maximize the thermoelectric energy conversion efficiency,” Ibáñez explains.

Next year Ibáñez will take up a new position as an assistant professor at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Vienna continuing her research on optimized nanotechnology. “I feel extremely honored to have been chosen as recipient of the Ruzicka Prise and I’ll work hard to live up to the standards of previous awardees in my future independent career,” she says.

Greener LEDs for Next Generation Displays

The next generation of displays for computers, TVs, and smartphones will have more colors than the current displays we use, covering almost the full color spectrum the human eye can perceive. Chih-Jen Shih developed a new generation of LEDs that emit very pure green light. With the help of such LEDs – in combination with red and blue LEDs – it is possible to generate 97 percent of all colors in the current international color range standard for ultra high-definition monitors. Shih proudly describes his discovery as “efficient light-emitting diodes that yield the purest colors” also hinting at the low cost to produce such LEDs for upcoming display technologies.

Shih was appointed as an assistant professor at ETH Zurich in 2015. His current research covers the fields of nanomaterials, surface and interface science, and optoelectronics. His research group focuses on investigating the fundamental physics and chemistry at the surfaces and interfaces of nanomaterials. The goal is to develop the next generation of materials used in low-cost, high-performance, and wearable electronic devices.

Ruzicka Prize

The Ruzicka Prize, named after the Nobel Prize winner Leopold Ruzicka, has been awarded annually since 1957 to young researchers who deliver outstanding work in the field of chemistry. The award is funded by the Swiss chemical industry. Along with the Werner Prize, it is Switzerland’s most important award for the promotion of young talents in the field of chemistry. The boards of trustees have discovered a wealth of talent since the prize was first awarded: the list of winners includes names such as Richard Ernst (magnetic resonance, Nobel Prize 1991) and Charles Weissmann (prion research, Robert Koch Medal 1995).

Source : ETH Zurich