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Makoto Fujita and Omar Yaghi win Wolf Prize in Chemistry

by Linda Wang
March 5, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 10

Credit: Courtesy of Makoto Fujita
A photo of Makoto Fujita.
Credit: Courtesy of Makoto Fujita

For their pioneering work on metal-organic frameworks and porous polymers, ­Makoto Fujita of the University of Tokyo and Omar Yaghi of the University of California, Berkeley, have been awarded the 2018 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. The $100,000 prizes are awarded annually by the Israel-based Wolf Foundation for ­outstanding work in the fields of agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, physics, and rotating disciplines in the arts.

Credit: Courtesy of Omar Yaghi
A photo of Omar Yaghi.
Credit: Courtesy of Omar Yaghi

Fujita, a professor of applied chemistry at the University of Tokyo, is being honored for his work on metal-directed self-assembly, which has yielded large, highly porous complexes used in applications such as structure determination in X-ray crystallography.

“Winning this prize is a great appreciation not only for me but also for all my former and current coworkers,” Fujita says. “It was wonderful that the committee stated the reason for my winning as ‘conceiving metal-directed assembly principles,’ which means I am one of the pioneers in this very exciting new field. For the future, we envision that our self-assembly chemistry will overlap more with biology.”

Yaghi, who is the James & Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, is being honored for his work on metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) and for pioneering the field of reticular chemistry, which is the chemistry of linking molecular building blocks by strong bonds to make crystalline open frameworks. Applications of his research include the development of materials for clean energy storage and generation.

“I am thrilled and honored to be selected by the Wolf Foundation and for its support and understanding of the transformational nature of basic science and its unlimited impact on human progress—and most especially on the freedom of the human spirit,” Yaghi says. “I value and appreciate my wonderful colleagues here and abroad who have supported me and my research group members both former and present for their patience and commitment.”

“Reticular chemistry will continue to grow beyond MOFs and COFs to include the science of building chemical structures where by virtue of the spatial arrangement of their components they can function in a precoded fashion,” Yaghi adds. “Such a concept will lead to sequence-dependent materials, highly selective reactions, and atomically defined chemical environments for dynamics to occur within robust frameworks.”

Yaghi and Fujita, along with seven other Wolf laureates in the sciences and arts, will receive their awards from the president of Israel during a ceremony later in the spring.

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