Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine

Charles K. Kao, for his work on optic fibers, along with Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, for their work on charge-coupled devices, win the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.

CCD used for ultraviolet imaging

CCD used for ultraviolet imaging

A Charge Coupled Device (CCD) is a device for the movement of electrical charge, usually from within the device to an area where the charge can be manipulated, for example conversion into a digital value.

This is achieved by “shifting” the signals between stages within the device one at a time, in a queue like manner.

Technically, CCDs are implemented asshift registers that move charge between capacative “bins” in the device, with the shift allowing for the transfer of charge between bins.

Often the device is integrated with a sensor, such as a photoelectric device to produce the charge that is being read, thus making the CCD a major technology where the conversion of images into a digital signal is required. Whilst CCDs are not the only technology to allow for light detection, CCDs are widely used in professional, medical and scientific applications where high quality image data is required.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas A. Steitz and Ada E. Yonath win the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on the structure and function of the ribosome.

Ribosomes are complexes of RNA and protein that are found in all cells with nuclei. The ribosome is part of the mechanism that translates the DNA sequence into the protein sequence (proteins are translated from mRNA, mRNA is transcribed from DNA, so DNA is not ‘translated’ directly into protein).

Ribosomes from bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes (the three domains of life on Earth), have significantly different structure and RNA. The ribosomes in the mitochondria of eukaryotic cells resemble those in bacteria, reflecting the evolutionary origin of this organelle.

The ribosome is part of the mechanism that translates the genetic code from nucleic acid into protein chains. Ribosomes assemble individual amino acids into polypeptide chains. Ribosomes bind to a messenger RNA molecule, which they use as a template to join the correct sequence of amino acids. The amino acids are attached to transfer RNA molecules, which read the messenger RNA sequence and attach the proteins in the correct sequence.

Nobel Prize in Physiology

Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak win the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

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