Sponsored by ExxonMobil Chemical Co.
E. W. (Bert) Meijer, professor of organic chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands, is honored for his seminal contributions to the design and synthesis of complex macromolecular architectures using a combination of covalent and supramolecular chemistry.
"He combines in a highly original and innovative way his interest in materials science, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biomimicry with polymer chemistry," remarks chemistry professor Virgil Percec at the University of Pennsylvania. A continuing theme of Meijer's research is supramolecular polymer chemistry with a specific focus on chirality and the three-dimensional structures of complex macromolecules, Percec adds.
Born in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 1955, Meijer attended the State University of Groningen, where he obtained a master's degree in chemistry in 1978 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1982 for work on the synthesis, properties, and applications of 1,2-dioxetanes. His Ph.D. adviser was chemistry professor Hans Wynberg. Meijer then joined Philips Research Laboratories, Eindhoven, as a research scientist in molecular materials. Working on polymer semiconductors and nonlinear optical materials, he was one of the first chemists to recognize that the synthesis of well-defined and highly purified conjugated macromolecular systems holds the key to the future application of these materials in electronic and optical devices.
In 1989, he was appointed head of the new materials department at DSM Research, Geleen, the Netherlands, where he started his work on dendrimers. One of his first and most important accomplishments was the development of poly(propylene imine) dendrimers by a route that permitted the large-scale synthesis of these well-defined, highly branched polymers, Percec notes. "This success instigated the investigation of dendrimers in many laboratories worldwide for various studies ranging from materials science, to biomedical applications, to fundamental macromolecular questions," he says.
Meijer moved to Eindhoven University of Technology as full professor of organic chemistry in 1991. In 1995, he showed that it is possible to reversibly encapsulate functional guest molecules in the interior of a dendrimer. He also synthesized "super-amphiphiles" in which dendrimer head groups of different generations and near-monodisperse polystyrene tails are combined to form a new class of block copolymers that show generation-dependent aggregation phenomena. Other achievements include the first observation of circularly polarized luminescence from a conjugated polymer and the preparation of the first polymer light-emitting diode that emits circularly polarized light.
In 1997, Meijer demonstrated that small molecules and oligomers containing terminal hydrogen-bonding groups can be made to display the macroscopic materials properties that are typical of linear high-molecular-weight macromolecules. The design is based on self-complementary monomers with four hydrogen bonds that form dimeric linkages.
Meijer, an author or coauthor of almost 400 research publications, has been honored with numerous awards and named lectureships. He received the Gold Medal of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society in 1993, ACS's Arthur K. Doolittle Award in 1995, the Silver Medal of the Macro Group U.K. of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1999, and the Spinoza Award—the highest Dutch science award—in 2001.
In 2004, he was awarded the first distinguished chair as University Professor of Molecular Sciences at Eindhoven University of Technology. Since 1995, he has also been adjunct professor of macromolecular chemistry at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He is a member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences & Humanities and the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts & Sciences.
The award address will be presented before the Division of Polymer Chemistry.—Michael Freemantle