Akira Kouchi & Naohiro Yoshida Win 2020 Miyake Prize

Two Japanese researchers have been awarded the 2020 Miyake Prize, which honors outstanding contributions in the field of materials science or earth and planetary science.

AsianScientist (Sep. 3, 2020) – Professor Akira Kouchi and Naohiro Yoshida have won the 2020 Japan Geoscience Union Scientific Award, also known as the Miyake Prize. Awarded once every two years, the prize recognizes researchers for their outstanding contributions to the field of materials science or earth and planetary science.

Kouchi, a professor at Hokkaido University, was awarded for his experimental studies on the evolution of materials from interstellar molecular clouds to proto-planetary disks. He and his team designed a device to simulate the environment of interstellar molecular clouds, where the temperatures are so low that it was thought that chemical reactions would not be able to proceed.

Their experiments demonstrated that molecules including water and ethanol could in fact be generated efficiently at ultralow temperatures of 10K through a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling. These findings laid the foundations of the new field of astrochemistry. Kouchi’s research also shed light on how proto-planetary disks—dense clouds of dust and gas surrounding young stars—are formed.

Yoshida, who is Professor Emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, was recognized for his work on measuring isotope ratios, which allow us to estimate the ages of molecules.

“We have developed a method to accurately measure the natural abundance of various isotope molecules and estimate the origins of those molecules to deepen our understanding of the global environment, the origins and evolution of the Earth and life,” explained Yoshida.

The Miyake Prize was established in 1972 by Yasuo Miyake (1908-1990), one of the founders of the field of environmental radioactivity in the oceans and atmosphere. In 2018, the Miyake Prize was transferred from the Geochemistry Research Association to the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU), which is the largest academic organization of earth and planetary science. As Japan’s representative in the international arena, JpGU has partnerships around the world with associations such as the American Geophysical Union, the European Geoscience Union and the Asian Oceania Geoscience Society.


Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology; Photo: Tokyo Institute of Technology and Earth-Life Science Institute.
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