The Chiral Materials Team
Winner: 2022 Materials Chemistry Division Horizon Prize: Stephanie L Kwolek Award
For the discovery of chiral organic materials that allow high control of photon and electron spin.
Celebrate The Chiral Materials Team
Lead groups from London, the Netherlands and Israel, in collaboration with a large international network of scientists, have developed chiral organics for photon/electron spin control.
A vast array of current and future technologies rely on the precise control of a fundamental property of electrons and light waves called spin. While current applications span computer memory and 3D displays, future opportunities range from quantum computing and sensing to high-performance displays and authentication products.
Established strategies to achieve control of spin in these applications rely on materials and approaches that have serious limitations including excessive cost, complicated requirements for construction, and the need to operate at cryogenic temperatures. Carbon-based organic materials offer a considerable opportunity to overcome such limitations; however, organic materials do not traditionally allow for high control of spin.Read more
The team have pioneered an alternative approach to control light wave and electron spin in organic materials through the use of a basic property of symmetry/shape called chirality. Objects, including molecules, are defined as chiral if they exist as a pair of "left handed" or "right handed" mirror images that cannot be superimposed. It is becoming increasingly apparent that chiral molecules have electronic and spintronic properties that are beyond what was previously understood.
The team have used such behaviour to develop chiral materials that achieve very high spin control in organic materials at room temperature, opening the door to many future opportunities in applications reliant on spin.
The teamSee full team
David B. Amabilino, Research Professor, Institut de Ciència de Materials de Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
Konstantin Amsharov, Professor of Chemistry, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg
David L. Andrews, Professor, University of East Anglia
Oriol Arteaga, Ramón y Cajal Fellow, Universitat de Barcelona
Peter H. Beton, Professor, University of Nottingham
Jochen Brandt, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Imperial College London
Alasdair J. Campbell, Professor, Imperial College London
Tapan Kumar Das, Postdoctoral Researcher, Weizmann Institute of Science
Matthew Fuchter, Professor of Chemistry, Imperial College London
Gal Grinbom, Postdoctoral Researcher, Weizmann Institute of Science
James Hilfiker, Engineer, J. A. Woollam Co. Inc
Tamás Jávorfi, Beamline scientist, Diamond Light Source Ltd
Norbert Jux, apl. Professor, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg
Chidambar Kulkarni, Assistant Professor, IIT Bombay
Letizia Liirò-Peluso, PhD student, University of Nottingham
Mathijs F. J. Mabesoone, Postdoctoral Researcher, ETH Zürich
Bert Meijer, Professor, Eindhoven University of Technology
Amit Kumar Mondal, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Utah
Ron Naaman, Professor, Weizmann Institute of Science
David Reger, Postdoctoral Researcher, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg and Imperial College London
Seán T. J. Ryan, Postdoctoral Researcher, Imperial College London
Francesco Salerno, PhD student, Imperial College London
Stefan Schöche, Engineer, J. A. Woollam Co. Inc
Xingyuan Shi, Postdoctoral Researcher, Imperial College London
Giuliano Siligardi, Principal beamline scientist, Diamond Light Source Ltd
Francesco Tassinari, Lecturer, Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
Jessica Wade, Imperial College Research Fellow, Imperial College London
Li Wan, Postdoctoral Researcher, Linköping University
Cheng Wang, Beamline scientist, Advanced Light Source
Francesco Zinna, Lecturer, University of Pisa
What were the biggest challenges in this project?
Matt Fuchter: Our original work with chiral polymers came out of a serendipitous discovery. Since then, it has been challenging, but very rewarding, to build a team and engage a range of collaborators to allow for the use of many techniques to help us understand the materials we are working with – structurally, optically, and electronically. Often new measurements have raised as many questions as they have answered; but they have also led to new ideas, directions and discoveries.
Letizia Peluso: My personal challenge was to prove how valuable atomic force microscopy can be for the analysis of soft chiral materials.
What different strengths did different people bring to the team?
Francesco Tassinari: The team was really well rounded and contained great scientists from very diverse backgrounds. Having chemists and physicists working in close contact usually allows for amazing work to be done.
Where do you see the biggest impact of this technology/research being?
Jessica Wade: I’ve been inspired to work with chiral molecules ever since seeing Professor Matt Fuchter and the late-and-great Professor Alasdair Campbell talking about them at Imperial over five years ago. Since then, they have never ceased to amaze me. There are so many extraordinary applications, from low-power, room temperature quantum computation to enantioselective biosensors and high-efficiency flexible displays.
How do you see this work developing over the next few years, and what is next for this technology/research?
Ron Naaman: The special properties of chiral molecules may affect processes in biology. This aspect should be explored in the future. In addition, chiral materials can introduce spin current in spintronics based devices, like memory and sensors. The spin related properties of chiral materials may allow to develop the field of spin-controlled chemistry.
What inspires or motivates your team?
Francesco Tassinari: Chirality is such a fundamental aspect of our universe, you find it everywhere you look. We feel that there is something special hidden at the interface of chirality, charge and magnetism, and the desire to understand it is what drives us forward.
Bert Meijer: Our team is always interested in topics that are conceptual, new, not well understood, maybe very relevant, and interdisciplinary in nature. That brings us to the fascinating experience to work in interdisciplinary teams.
Letizia Peluso: Curiosity and the love for this job. Passion is essential to enjoy research.
What is the importance of collaboration in the chemical sciences?
Matt Fuchter: International collaboration is especially important. This team has hugely benefitted by being part of a large pan-European PhD training network called HEL4CHIROLED, coordinated by Professor Jeanne Crassous (Rennes, France). Such a network not only supports our ongoing research, but also seeds many new ideas and directions that will undoubtedly lead to exciting opportunities in chirality science.
What does good research culture look like/mean to you?
Jessica Wade: A good research culture is one in which everyone’s voices are heard. I strongly believe that diverse teams do better science: they generate exciting opportunities faster, they are more innovative, more impactful, and better places to work. Not only that, but diverse teams can improve public trust in science and scientists, as they look more like the communities they serve.
Why is chemistry important?
Francesco Tassinari: They say that chemistry is "the central science", and this is true in a very deep sense. We humans are chemical machines, and chemistry is both our hardware and operating system. It is just natural that we rely on chemistry as the medium to understand the world that surrounds us.