The Quantum Tunnel Podcast talks to Samuel Stafford. Sam has recently completed an MSc in Physics at Imperial College London. He has been working on Electron Paramagnetic Resonance or EPR, which is an analogous of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, but in this case it is the electron spins that are excited rather than the spins of atomic nuclei.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
This year the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Robert Edwards for the development of human in vitro fertilisation or IVF. Edward’s achievements have made it possible to treat infertility and accomplishing fertilization in human egg cells in test tubes. The efforts of his research saw the first “test tube baby” being born on July 25th, 1978. It is calculated that four million individuals have been born using IVF and with Edward’s efforts a new field of medicine has emerged.
Nobel Prize in Physics
Some times it takes the Nobel Committee several decades to award the Nobel Prize, a case in hand is that of Edward’s and IVF. However, in other cases the Committee is much quicker. This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded within 10 years of the developments that have brought to us graphene. The Nobel Prize was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for the extraction of graphene from a piece of graphite. Graphene is a form of carbon with the thickness of just one atom. Graphene show amazing properties: it conducts electricity better than copper, it is transparent and it is stronger than diamond. Incidentally, Andre Geim was awarded the IgNobel Prize in 2000 together with Sir Michael Berry for using magnets to levitate a frog!
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for the development of palladium-catalysed cross coupling. Sounds complicated, so what is this? Well, we are talking about a chemical tool that has enabled chemists the creation of sophisticated chemicals such as complex carbon-based molecules. As we know, carbon-based chemistry is the basis of life, however it turns out that carbon is stable and thus carbon atoms do not react easily with one another. Palladium-catalised cross coupling solved this problem and provided chemists with a more precise and efficient tool to work with. In the so-called Heck reaction, Negishi reaction and Suzuki reaction, carbon atoms meet on a palladium atom, and their proximity jump-starts the chemical reaction.