Nicola Spaldin wins 2019 Marcel Benoist Prize for work on multiferroic materials

This was published on September 5, 2019

Nicola Spaldin, ETH Zurich professor and NCCR MARVEL project leader has been awarded the 2019 Marcel Benoist prize—the "Swiss Nobel Prize"—for her groundbreaking research on multiferroics. This new class of materials responds to both magnetic and electric fields, a combination that does not generally occur simultaneously. This unusual property makes multiferroics promising materials that could, for example, replace silicon in future computer chips. 

Carey Sargent, EPFL, NCCR MARVEL

Research into multiferroics started in the mid-twentieth century, but development slowed for some fifty years because of a lack of suitable materials, the foundation said in a statement. Spaldin revitalised the field of multiferroics by using theoretical analysis and computer simulations to understand why multiferroics are so rare and to design new materials. 

"Nicola Spaldin’s pioneering work has paved the way for the development of electronic devices with entirely new architectures and greater energy efficiency," the foundation said. "Potential applications include ultra-fast computers, tiny data storage units and precision medical measuring instruments."

“It’s a tremendous honour to join the list of highly respected scientists who have been awarded the Marcel Benoist Prize," Spaldin said. "It’s a fabulous endorsement for my team of superb young researchers, and a recognition of the importance that materials play in improving many aspects of people’s lives. "

Professor Spaldin studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, where she obtained a B.A. in Natural Sciences in 1991. She then moved to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her PhD in Chemistry in 1996. She next worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Applied Physics Department at Yale University, before moving back to California, where she was Assistant Professor (1997-2002), Associate Professor (2002-2006) then Full Professor (2006 - 2010) in UC Santa Barbara’s Materials Department. She moved to ETH in 2011. She was a group leader in Vertical Project 1 in MARVEL Phase 1 and has been project leader of MARVEL Design & Discovery Project 5 since May 2018.

The full statement from the Marcel Benoist Foundation can be found here.

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