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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Russian and Americans share hi-tech Nobel
Kilby AP
Jack Kilby has about 60 patents to his name
This year's Nobel Prize for Physics has gone to three scientists who have made fundamental contributions to information technology.

Russia's Zhores Alferov and US researchers Herbert Kroemer and Jack Kilby were cited for work that paved the way for computers, CD players, satellite links and mobile telephones.

Kilby, of Texas Instruments in Dallas, showed how it was possible to combine large numbers of electronic components on to a single slice of silicon. This was the first integrated circuit, the precursor of devices like the Pentium chip in today's computers.

Alferov, of the AF Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute in St Petersburg, and Kroemer, of the University of California at Santa Barbara, contributed to more recent developments in electronics, creating subtle structures inside silicon crystals that have led to much faster and more powerful applications.

Higher frequencies

The prize is worth $915,000. Kilby will get one half; Alferov and Kroemer will share the other half.

Herbert Kroemer  AP
Herbert Kroemer works in the US now but was born in Germany
Hermann Grimmeiss, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the body which decides who should get the famous Nobel Prizes, said the work of the three men had been invaluable in developing the electronic devices that have transformed modern life

"Without Kilby, it would not have been possible to build the personal computers we have today," Grimmeiss said, "and without Alferov, it would not be possible to transfer all the information from satellites down to the Earth or to have so many telephone lines between cities."

It was Kroemer who pioneered a radical new kind of transistor called a heterotransistor, which could handle much higher frequencies than its predecessors and went on to revolutionise satellite communications and mobile telephones.

Paper clip

German-born Kroemer and Alferov later, independently, came up with the idea of using the technology to fire laser light. That breakthrough was key to fibre optics, CD players, bar-code readers and the light-emitting diodes used in modern car brake lights.

 Zhores Alferov AP
Zhores Alferov is also active in Russian politics
Alferov said of his award: "It is without doubt a symbol of international recognition of our Soviet and Russian physics. We have already started to drink 'shampanskoye'," referring to the sparkling wine popular in the former Soviet Union.

Kilby conceived and built the first electronic circuit in which all of the components, both active and passive, were fabricated in a single piece of semiconductor material half the size of a paper clip.

The successful laboratory demonstration of his first simple microchip on 12 September, 1958, made history.

Official ceremony

The Swedish academy said that through the invention, microelectronics had grown to become the basis of all modern technology.

"Examples are powerful computers and processors, which collect and process data and control everything from washing machines and cars to space probes and medical diagnostic equipment."

The scientists will receive their prize from the King of Sweden at an official ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December.

The date is the anniversary of the death in 1896 of the Nobel Prizes' creator, Swedish scholar and inventor Alfred Nobel.

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Brain pioneers share Nobel prize
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