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Sumio Iijima, Shuji Nakamura, Robert Langer, George M. Whitesides and Tobin Marks

Prince of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research 2008

Groundbreakers in the field of Nanotechnology worldwide, these scientists have created new, revolutionary materials and transcendental techniques for fighting diseases, such as those related to the brain and cancer, and for producing artificial tissues and organs. Their work also stands out for its contribution to the protection of the environment and energy saving via the use of new sources of clean energy that may be produced at a low cost.

All these technological innovations and scientific discoveries are of special importance in the fight against poverty, such as the inexpensive purification of drinking water in the planet's more underprivileged areas. The possibility of using reduced-cost, low-energy consumption sources of light in this fight is likewise worthy of mention.

Sumio Iijima

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Sumio Iijima (Saitama, Japan, 1939) discovered carbon nanotubes, materials made from carbon atoms, and their inherent potential in 1991. They constitute the stiffest and strongest fibres known to date, giving rise to a new generation of ultralight, ultrastrong materials. These versatile materials, excellent conductors of heat and electricity which can behave as metals or superconductors, could revolutionize the fields of electronics and computing, among many other applications. One of these has a direct influence on the field of renewable energies, as carbon nanotubes have been shown to be exceptional candidates for the safe storage of hydrogen, one of the fuels of the future.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Electro-Communications, Tokyo in 1963 and completed his Ph.D in solid-state physics at Tohoku University in Sendai in 1968. He is a Professor at Meijo University, Director of the Research Center for Advanced Carbon Materials at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Senior Research Fellow of NEC Corporation and Dean of Sungkyunkwan University Advanced Institute of Nanotechnology (Seoul, South Korea).

Iijima is a member of the main scientific societies in Japan, Europe and the USA and has received the  Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics (USA, 2002), the American Carbon Society Award (2004) and the John M. Cowley Medal from the International Federation of Societies for Microscopy (2006). Outstanding among the latest acknowledgements he has received are the Japan Society of Applied Physics Outstanding Achievement Award (2002), the Imperial Award (Japan, 2002), the J. C. McGroddy Prize from the American Physical Society (2002), the Agilent Technologies Europhysics Prize from the European Physical Society (2002), the Physical Sciences Award of the Microscopy Society of America (2005), the Balzan Prize (Switzerland, 2007), the Fujiwara Award (Japan, 2007), the Gregori Aminoff Prize in Crystallography from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (2007) and the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience (Norway, 2008).

Shuji Nakamura

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Shuji Nakamura (Ehime, Japón, 1954), Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 , together with Isamu Akasaki y Hiroshi Amano,  who holds American citizenship, is the inventor of LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) or diodes that emit green, blue and white light. These constitute a revolutionary source of light that is highly efficient, has a long-life and a much reduced energy consumption than traditional sources, such as incandescent light bulbs. Considered to be the lighting of the future, LEDs have an enormous potential in underdeveloped areas which are not covered by the power supply. He has also developed ultraviolet LEDs that enable drinking water to be sterilized, which could lead to a great improvement in life and health conditions for many millions of people in the Third World.

Another of his major achievements is the blue laser, which has important applications in optoelectronics and data storage. This laser has given rise to the blu-ray technology, by means of which it is possible to increase the volume of information stored on devices like the DVD fivefold. He has published 390 articles in the most prestigious scientific journals, which have been referenced 18,936 times by his colleagues, resulting in an exceptional h-index of 108. He also has 448 patents, approved or pending.

He graduated from the University of Tokushima in 1977 with a degree in Electronic Engineering, obtaining his Ph.D from the same university in 1994. In 1979, he joined the Japanese company, Nichia, where he worked until 1999. Since then, he has been a professor and researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara (USA).Outstanding among the awards he holds are that of the Society for Information Display (USA, 1996), the Quantum Electronics Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (USA, 2002), the Rank Prize (UK, 1998), the Benjamin Franklin Medal (USA, 2002) and the Millennium Technology Prize (Finland, 2006), considered as the Technology 'Nobel prize'.

Robert Langer

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Robert Langer (Albany, USA, 1948) is considered the father of intelligent drug delivery on account of developing novel, biomimetic materials in the form of polymers, nanoparticles or chips which permit the controlled delivery of drugs throughout the human body. This allows safe transport and administration of the precise, controlled dosage of drugs, acting directly on malignant cells and allowing prolonged release over time, thus notably increasing their efficacy. His research has allowed various types of cancer, such as cancer of the prostrate and brain tumours, to be successfully treated.

Langer is currently a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he directs one of the most internationally renowned biomedical research laboratory in the world. Although he received his bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering, he carried out postdoctoral research in Medicine, which marked the course of his future research, situated on the interface between Materials Science and Biotechnology.

He has also broken ground in tissue engineering, achieving the reconstruction and controlled growth of tissue and organs through the use of novel biodegradable materials that serve as support structures. Acknowledged by the scientific community as one of the most innovative interdisciplinary researchers, Robert Langer has received the United States National Science Medal, as well as numerous awards and honours, outstanding among which are the Gairdner Foundation International Award (Canada, 1996), the Dickson Prize (USA, 2002), the Nagai Prize (Japón, 2002), the John Fritz Medal (USA, 2003), the Harvey Award (Israel, 2003), the Dan David Award (Israel, 2005), the Max Planck Research Award (Germany, 2008) and the Millenium Technology Prize (Finland, 2008), considered as the Technology 'Nobel prize'. Member of the US National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, he is author of over 1,000 articles, published in the most prestigious scientific journals worldwide, and holds 600 registered patents.

George M. Whitesides

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George M. Whitesides (Louisville, USA, 1939) studied at the University of Harvard (USA) and was awarded a Ph.D by the California Institute of Technology in 1964. He worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  from 1963 to 1982. He joined the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University in 1982, serving as chairman between 1986 and 1989. He was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at this same university between 1989 and 1992.

He has developed techniques for the fabrication of nanoscale materials that are both novel and efficient. These include soft lithography, by means of which a molecule is employed as a support or mould for generating an enormous amount of molecules with certain characteristics. He is also one of the fathers of molecular self-assembly, which allows materials to be grown in an organised way, and soft lithography, in which a nanomaterial serves as a mould or support to create materials presenting certain characteristics.

He has acted as an advisor to US institutions such as the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and NASA. Author of 1,015 articles which have been cited 37,253 times, he has developed 70 patents and, with an h-index of 40, leads the ranking in Chemistry worldwide. Recipient of an honorary Ph.D from the University of Twente (Holland), he was awarded the US National Medal of Science (1998), the Von Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society (USA, 2000), the Inamori Foundation Kyoto Prize (Japan, 2003), the Paracelsus Prize from the Swiss Society of Chemistry (2004), the Dan David Prize (Israel, 2005) and the Welch Award (USA, 2005). He is a Member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Holland and of the National Academy of Sciences of India, as well as belonging to the main American scientific societies, such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Philosophical Society and the New York Academy of Science, among others.

Tobin Marks

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Tobin Marks (Washington, USA, 1944)  is considered a leader in the field of chemical catalysis, having developed processes for numerous types of recyclable, environmentally-friendly plastics. He has developed a prototype of third-generation photovoltaic solar cells, composed of flexible, efficient, low-cost, organic materials, as well as sensors and light modulators for transmitting data more efficiently. His achievements also include transistors and light-emitting diodes based on organic materials (OLEDs), which lead to energy savings and may be incorporated in electronic devices such as PDAs, cellular phones, as well as being the basis of what is known as electronic paper.

He obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland in 1966 and his Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1970. He is currently Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Catalytic Chemistry at Northwestern University (Chicago). He is the author of 902 articles and 87 patents and has received, among other distinctions, the National Medal of Science (USA, 2005), the Royal Society of Chemistry Medal (United Kingdom), the German Chemical Society Karl Ziegler Medal and American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal. Outstanding among the other awards he has received are American Chemical Society Awards in Polymeric Materials (1983), Organometallic Chemistry (1989), Materials Chemistry (1994), Inorganic Chemistry (2001), and Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry (2008), the Willard Gibbs Medal (2001), the Linus Pauling Medal (2001), the Cotton Medal (2000), the Paolo Chini Award of the Italian Chemical Society (1999), the Centenary and Frankland Medals from the Royal Society of Chemistry (1997, 2004), and the Burwell Award from the North American Catalysis Society (2001). He is a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the German National Academy of Sciences .

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