Every year, Thomson Scientific, a division of Thomson Reuters, attempts to predict who will win the Nobel prizes in the medicine, chemistry, physics, and economics categories a few weeks before the official list is released in October. This year’s predictions include two technology pioneers: Seiji Ogawa, inventor of functional magenetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, and Michael Gratzel, inventor of the organic dye-sensitized solar cell (pictured left).
Ogawa spent most of his career at Bell Labs, where he and a research team introduced the first fMRI machine in 1990. Today, fMRI technology is used for everything from treating brain tumors to devising advertising strategies.
Incidentally, the first solar cells were also developed at Bell Labs. But most of the work on organic, non-silicon solar cells has been done elsewhere. Gratzel’s solar cells, which use natural dyes to increase sunlight absorption, were developed at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne in Switzerland in 1991.
The process by which the Nobel committee decides who wins the coveted awards is notoriously convoluted, making the results almost impossible to predict. Thomson Scientific bases their predictions on the number of citations a researcher’s work receives, and they’ve had several successes, including the chemistry and economics Nobels last year. Both MRI and solar cell technologies have received Nobels before (2003 and 2000, respectively), so the Nobel committee could decide it’s too soon to honor Ogawa’s and Gratzel’s inventions. We won’t find out for sure until the week of October 5.