This page belongs to: Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science 2023

2023 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu

The Australian National University’s Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu received the 2023 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

Professor Lu was recognised for discovering interlayer exciton pairs, which can help to unravel the phenomenon of superfluidity. This discovery is paving the way for new electronic devices which are more energy efficient and faster.

He also made the world’s thinnest micro-lens, only 1/2000th the thickness of a human hair. This can be used to make lightweight optical systems, opening possibilities for space exploration, medical imaging, environmental monitoring and food safety.

He has made a significant contribution to educating and developing the next generation of nanoscience and nanotechnology researchers.

Watch video highlights

Transcript

[Music plays and an image appears of a Malcolm McIntosh Prize Physical Scientist of the Year medallion above text: Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu, PhD]

[Image changes to show a close view of Prof Yuerui Lu talking to the camera]

Prof Yuerui Lu: When I was a child, I was an eager explorer, often taking apart toys to unlock their mysteries. 

[Image changes to show Yuerui seated on a stool talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Yuerui and his colleagues working together in a lab]

Now I am leading a team of scientists working on nanoscience and nanotechnologies. 

[Music plays as image changes to show Yuerui laughing, and then the image changes to show Yuerui talking to the camera, and text appears: Professor Yuerui (Larry) Lu]

I am Yuerui Lu a professor in School of Engineering at the ANU. 

[Image changes to show a medium and then a close view of Yuerui talking to the camera]

My team made the first experimental discovery of interlayer exciton pairs. 

[Image changes to show Yuerui and colleagues looking at diagrams on a whiteboard, and then the image changes to show a close view of Yuerui explaining something on the whiteboard]

An interlayer exciton is made by a positive charge and a negative charge sitting in two different layers. 

[Image changes to show a female colleague talking, and then the image changes to show a close view of the diagram on the whiteboard]

Two interlayer excitons combine together to form an interlayer exciton pair. 

[Image changes to show a medium and then a close view of Yuerui talking to the camera]

When many of these interlayer excitons come together, they can transform into a superfluid. 

[Image changes to show a view looking down on cars moving fast along freeways at night]

A superfluid is like a superhighway allowing these pairs to move really fast, similar to cars on a freeway. 

[Image changes to show a medium and then a close view of Yuerui talking to the camera]

We made this discovery using a unique material structure by stacking two different types of atomically thin semi-conductors. 

[Image changes to show a medium view of Yuerui talking to the camera]

This is just like building an atomic Lego. 

[Images move through to show researchers looking at a microscope in the lab]

This discovery paves the way for a new generation of electronic devices. 

[Image changes to show a motherboard, and then the image changes to show a machine producing a motherboard]

These devices could be much faster and consume far less energy than what we have today. 

[Images move through to show Yuerui and a colleague in conversation, a close view of a micro lens, a close view of a female researcher, and then Yuerui talking to the camera]

My team also made the world’s thinnest micro lens, only 1/2000th the thickness of a human hair. 

[Images move through to show an object being moved under a microscope, a view of the micro lens, a laser radiation machine, and Yuerui talking to the camera]

Those can be used to make lightweight and compact optical systems. This can open up new possibilities for space exploration, medical screening, environmental monitoring and ensuring food safety. 

[Image changes to show Yuerui and a colleague walking together and talking]

Teamwork and collaboration are crucial for my research. 

[Images move through to show Yuerui talking with his colleagues around a microscope, a close view of one of the colleagues, and then Yuerui talking to the camera]

The diversity of scientists and disciplines in my team leads to more robust, inclusive and impactful advancements for science.

[Music plays as image changes to show a medium and then a close view of Yuerui walking along outside a building, and then the image changes to show Yuerui talking to the camera]

It's a great honour to receive the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year. 

[Image changes to show a close view of Yuerui talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show Yuerui crossing his arms and smiling at the camera]

This prize will continue to inspire me and young scientists to think big and address challenges for the future. 

[Music plays and the image changes to show a Malcolm McIntosh Prize Physical Scientist of the Year medallion on the left, the Australian Government Coat of Arms at the bottom right, and text on the right: 2023 Malcolm McIntosh Prize Physical Scientist of the Year]