The 2023 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was on Wednesday awarded to scientists Moungi G Bawendi, Louis E Brus and Alexei I Ekimov “for the discovery and synthesis of quantum dots”, a fundamental discovery in nanotechnology.

Quantum dots are widely used in in LED lights, television screens, solar panels and in medicine, where they among other things can help surgeons in removing tumours.

“Researchers believe that in the future they could contribute to flexible electronics, tiny sensors, thinner solar cells and encrypted quantum communication – so we have just started exploring the potential of these tiny particles,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Bawendi is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brus is based at Columbia University and Ekimov is chief scientist at Nanocrystals Technology, a New York-based company.

The official announcement came hours after the Royal Academy of Sciences appeared to have inadvertently leaked the three names to media outlets. However, the academy has refused to comment on the leak.

This is the third Nobel Prize to be awarded this year. On Tuesday, the prize in physics was awarded to scientists Pierre Agostini, Ferenc Krausz and Anne L’Huillier for their work on electrons. On Monday, the prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to scientists Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their research that led directly to the first mRNA vaccines to fight Covid-19.

The other awards given in categories of literature, peace and economics will be announced between October 5 and October 9. The prizes will be handed out to the winners on December 10.

Last year, the prize in chemistry was shared between scientists Carolyn R Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K Barry Sharpless for development of technologies known as click chemistry and bioorthogonal reactions. Their work is used globally to explore cells and track biological processes.