Professor Sir John Pendry awarded Kyoto Prize for advanced technology


Professor Sir John Pendry

Imperial’s Professor Pendry has been honoured by the Japanese Inamori Foundation for his contributions to material science and engineering.

The Kyoto Prize is an international award presented to individuals who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of humankind, in three categories: advanced technology, basic sciences, and arts and philosophy.

It is gratifying to see metamaterials recognised by this award. Professor Sir John Pendry

Professor Pendry, from the Department of Physics at Imperial, is awarded for his ‘contribution of the theoretical construction of metamaterials to the field of materials science’.

At a prize ceremony in Kyoto in November he will receive a diploma, a gold Kyoto Prize medal, and prize money of 100 million yen (about £500,000).

Professor Pendry said: “It is gratifying to see metamaterials recognised by this award, especially so as our team at Imperial embarks on a new ambitious project for their further development.”

Professor Michele Dougherty, Head of the Department of Physics at Imperial, said: “This is marvellous news, underpinning the fantastic high-profile critical research for which John is renowned. This award is so well deserved, and the Physics Department is very proud of John and his world-class achievements.”

Designing metamaterials

Metamaterials are specially constructed materials that have properties not found in nature. They can be designed to have particular electromagnetic properties, meaning that they can interact with light and other waves in previously unseen ways.

Professor Pendry laid the theoretical groundwork for how metamaterials could be constructed by deriving their electromagnetic properties from their microscopic physical structure, instead of their chemical make-up.

This research contributed to the development of the first working prototype cloaking device, which renders an object invisible to electromagnetic waves. Instead of striking and reflecting off the object, they flow smoothly around it as if it were not there, giving the illusion of transparency.

A version of this design working at radar frequencies and exploiting the properties of metamaterials was implemented experimentally by a team of scientists led by Professor David R Smith at Duke University. Optical versions of the cloak have now been constructed.

Professor Pendry's research has also generated the revolutionary theory of the perfect lens. This overturns conventional laws of physics to generate better resolutions than conventional optic lenses. The theory may lead to new imaging techniques that surpass the limits normally imposed by light.

Widespread achievements

The principles Professor Pendry developed led to considerable advancements in metamaterials research worldwide since the early 2000s. Metamaterials have various applications in microwave control, heat shielding, optical, and optical communication technologies They are embedded in 5G mobile technology and are expected to play a central role in 6G. They have also been applied to wave fields other than electromagnetic ones, such as acoustics.

The Inamori Foundation concluded that: “Pendry’s innovative theoretical research on metamaterials has considerably advanced the field of materials science, created new interdisciplinary research areas, and paved the way for the development of novel materials with widespread social applications. His achievements are highly esteemed.”

Professor Pendry, who has been working at Imperial since 1981, was knighted for services to science in 2004.

In September 2014 His Majesty King Harald of Norway presented the prestigious Kavli Prize in Nanoscience to Professor Pendry in honour of his contributions to nano-optics. He shared the one-million-dollar Dan David Prize for contributions to nanoscience in 2016, and most recently he won the 2019 SPIE Mozi Award ‘in recognition of his eminent contributions to the development of perfect lens’.


Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications Division

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