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Matyjaszewski Wins AkzoNobel North America Science Award

ACS award recognizes polymer chemistry innovations

by Mitch Jacoby
January 28, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 4

Credit: Courtesy of Krzysztof Matyjaszewski
Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Carnegie Mellon
Credit: Courtesy of Krzysztof Matyjaszewski

Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, J. C. Warner University Professor of Natural Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, has won the first AkzoNobel North America Science Award. The American Chemical Society selected Matyjaszewski for the $75,000 prize for his development of atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) and other polymer chemistry innovations.

ATRP is widely used to make polymers and copolymers for applications including adhesives, sealants, pigment dispersants, and chromatography packings. The method is also being evaluated for drug delivery, bone regeneration, and other biomedical applications.

Through adjustments in temperature and other conditions, ATRP precisely controls polymer composition and architecture with the help of a catalyst that adds one or a few monomers at a time to a growing polymer chain.

Citation data testify to the method’s enormous utility and Matyjaszewski’s influence. His 1995 ATRP paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and his first review paper on the subject have together been cited more than 6,000 times. And in the past decade, scientists worldwide have published more than 1,000 journal papers per year in which they discussed ATRP.

“The main reason for this explosive development is the simplicity of ATRP and the unusual power to prepare tailor-made macromolecules for many special applications,” says Guy C. Berry, an emeritus professor of chemistry and polymer science at Carnegie Mellon. These features make ATRP an attractive technique for industrial practice, he adds.

Matyjaszewski’s scientific contributions are “groundbreaking,” says Robert S. Langer of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Langer notes that his colleague’s research has led to controlled, efficient, safe, and economical methods for polymer synthesis. ATRP enables scientists to create materials with highly customized functionality, Langer says, including materials that can respond to changes in pressure, acidity, light intensity, and other stimuli. This work has revolutionized the way macromolecules are manufactured, he says.

“Krzysztof Matyjaszewski’s development of atom transfer radical polymerization is the most important advance in synthetic polymer chemistry of the last half-century, ” adds another polymer science expert, David A. Tirrell of California Institute of Technology

Matyjaszewski, 63, completed his undergraduate and master’s-level chemistry education at the Technical University of Moscow in 1972 and earned a Ph.D. from the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1976. Following postdoctoral research at the University of Florida, he was appointed research associate at the Polish Academy of Sciences and later at the University of Paris. He has held an academic position at Carnegie Mellon since 1985.

Matyjaszewski’s scientific contributions have been recognized with numerous prestigious awards and other honors. He is a foreign member of both Russia’s and Poland’s Academy of Sciences, an honorary fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society, and an ACS fellow. He received Israel’s Wolf Prize in Chemistry, Japan’s Society of Polymer Science Award, and several ACS polymer science awards.

Matyjaszewski will receive the AkzoNobel award at the spring 2013 ACS national meeting in New Orleans.



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