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MU Professor Awarded Medal for Innovation in Nuclear Science and Engineering

Oct. 9, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan C. Daniels, (573) 882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - As a result of pioneering work in nuclear energy conversion and nuclear batteries, a University of Missouri-Columbia faculty member has received international recognition for his research achievements.

Mark A. Prelas, professor of nuclear engineering and director of research at MU's Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute, recently was awarded the Frederic Joliot-Curie Medal for his scientific innovation and leadership in nuclear and engineering research. He will receive the award during a ceremony in Moscow in 2008. For Prelas, the recognition and anticipation of the moment has become one of the proudest occasions of his 29-year career at MU.

"There are a lot of faculty members whose works have gone unrecognized," said Prelas, who owns 12 invention patents worldwide. "I am certainly humbled by this experience. I appreciate the colleagues who nominated me and the committee that made the decision. It has been unbelievable."

His work over the years has focused mainly on:

  • Nuclear pumped lasers (he discovered an atomic carbon nuclear pumped laser, which was among the first of such lasers that was reproduced by laboratories around the world).
  • Nuclear light bulbs (a means of generating hydrogen, electrical power and laser energy directly from nuclear reactions).

  • Wide-band gap photovoltaic cells (wide band-gap photovoltaic cells are key components of present day nuclear batteries as well as the nuclear light bulb).
  • Quantum fingerprinting technology (molecules leave "energy fingerprints" that can be used to detect anything from meth to dynamite).
  • Extracting materials from diamonds (change the properties of diamonds to make them harder and more resistant to oxygen).

"My research is based on the advanced production of energy from nuclear sources," he said. "I've enjoyed being on the revolutionary end of research and new discoveries."

Prelas is the first recipient of the Frederic Joliot-Curie medal, which is sponsored by the Government of Russia, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, International Center for Hydrogen Energy Technologies, International Association for Hydrogen Energy (IAHE) and International Scientific Journal of Alternative Energy and Ecology.