Microstructural evolution under the Cahn–Hilliard equation, during phase separation of mixtures. Source: Wikipedia

On June 24, the Inamori Foundation named John W. Cahn as the winner of the 2011 Kyoto Prize in the category of Advanced Technology: Materials Science and Engineering for his “outstanding contribution to alloy materials engineering by the establishment of spinodal decomposition theory”. Since 1985, the international Kyoto prize has been presented to individuals “who have contributed significantly to the progress of science, the advancement of civilization, and the enrichment and elevation of the human spirit.”

According to the committee, Cahn’s work “has made it possible to predict the optimal microstructures of alloy materials and to maximize their functions. The theory has led to the establishment of a design guideline for the development of alloy materials and contributed to the progress of both materials science and materials industry.”

Dr. Cahn, 83, a citizen of the United States, currently serves as Emeritus Senior Fellow at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, and as an affiliate professor at University of Washington.

In 1961, Cahn and Hilliard, both scientists at General Electric in Schnectady New York, published a paper that changed the way scientists and engineers think about mixtures of different materials. Look around your home, your workplace and places of leisure and you will find plastic, metal, and glass products created with the knowledge and understand provided by the 1961 Cahn-Hilliard equation and subsequent theoretical models. Cahn’s theoretical models have also provided a means to better understand simple to complex materials science phenomena ranging from the formation of frost patterns on a car’s windshield to the clumping of galaxies in the early universe. His work continues to spawn new areas of materials research, including phase-field methodologies that are hot research topics in physics, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, economics and demography.

John W. Cahn and other Kyoto Prize Laureates will be officially honored in Japan on Nov. 9th, each receiving a diploma, 20-karat-gold medallion, and a cash gift totaling 50 million yen (~ $625,000). The ceremony and gala will be repeated in the U.S. in San Diego. Calif. on March 20-22, 2012.

Our congratulations go out to you John W. Cahn!

Watch this video to learn more about John W. Cahn:

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