Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu accepted the 2023 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year at the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science event held at Parliament House on 16 October.
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia, and the Hon Ed Husic MP, Minister for Industry and Science presented awards in seven categories at a gala event, which gathered distinguished members of Australia’s science and technology community.
“I am incredibly humbled to be awarded this prestigious prize,” Prof Lu said. “It has been such a privilege to be a scientist focused on nanoscience and nanotechnology. I sincerely hope that my work and this recognition can serve as a source of inspiration for the next generations of young minds to pursue a career in science.”
Prof Lu was recognised for discovering interlayer exciton pairs, for engineering the world’s thinnest micro-lens, and for his work as a mentor and educator at the ANU College of Engineering, Computing & Cybernetics.
Prof Lu and his research team made the discovery of interlayer exciton pairs by stacking atomicaly-thin semiconductors into layers.
“An interlayer exciton is made by a positive charge and a negative charge did in two different layers,” Prof Lu explained. “When many of these interlayer excitons come together, they can transform into a superfluid. A superfluid is like a superhighway, allowing these pairs to move really fast.”
Superfluidity could pave the way for a new generation of electronic devices, faster and more energy efficient than current technology.
The microlens developed by Prof Lu and his team also employs nanotechnology.
After a medical scare involving his father, Prof Lu asked himself if there is more he could do as an engineer to improve outcomes for sufferers of heart disease.
The resulting microlens is 1/2000th the thickness of a human hair, small enough to be inserted into a blood vessel. It will also have applications in space exploration, environmental monitoring, and food safety.
“Nanotechnology is so interesting because you cannot see it with your eyes, and yet we can develop different types of techniques to see it, touch it and engineer it,” Dr Lu said.
The other winners of 2023 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science were recognised for achievements in fields such as agritech, quantum technology, conservation, climate, science education, and medicine.
More about Prof Lu’s research: Hydrogen micro-bubbles join fight against climate change