Image: The Nobel Foundation

Shortly before noon Central European time today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the second set of Nobel prizes given out this year. (The prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded yesterday.) They have split this year's Nobel Prize in Physics into two parts: one half of the prize goes jointly to Zhores I. Alferovof the A. F. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Herbert Kroemer of the University of California at Santa Barbara "for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics." The other half goes to Texas Instruments scientist Jack S. Kilby "for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit."

The prize this year, the academy acknowledges, recognizes scientists who laid the foundation for modern IT. Without the layered semiconductors developed by Alferov and Kroemer, components ranging from fast transistors in base stations for mobile phones to laser diodes in bar-code readers would not exist. Their work also paved the way for powerful light-emitting diodes, which are now finding uses in car brake lights and traffic lights. And Kirby's contributions to the integrated circuit made possible the many processors found in computers and most all electronic devices. For additional information from the Nobel Foundation about the new laureates' work, see