Chemistry News

Prof. Iwasawa, Assoc. Prof. Takaya and Assoc. Prof. Maeda receive Prizes for Science and Technology in 2016 MEXT Commendation

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July 07, 2016

The prizes are awarded to researchers who have exhibited exceptional performance in one of five categories of Development, Research, Technology, Science and Technology Promotion, or Public Understanding Promotion. Professor Nobuharu Iwasawa received prizes for research.

Prize for Science and Technology (Research)

Nobuharu Iwasawa
Professor, School of Science

Prize-winning research: CO2 fixation reactions utilizing transition metal catalysts

Prof. Iwasawa

Prof. Iwasawa

Development of methods for the fixation of CO2 as a carbon resource into useful organic compounds is one way to address the issue of dwindling fossil resources. Carbon dioxide's low reactivity, however, has been an obstacle to research and development of an efficient catalytic system for CO2 fixation reactions.

Applying our unique transition metal catalysts or new catalyst systems, we reacted easily available organic molecules with CO2, developed an efficient method capable of converting it to useful compounds, and successfully established a CO2 fixation system.

Synthesis of benzoic acid from benzene and CO<sub>2</sub> utilizing rhodium catalyst

Synthesis of benzoic acid from benzene and CO2 utilizing rhodium catalyst

This research achieved several new catalytic CO2 fixation reactions that had conventionally been difficult to perform. These included the direct reaction of CO2 with aromatic hydrocarbons and unsaturated hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene. We are continuing our search for more efficient CO2 fixation reactions.

These results were made possible by the perseverance of students working by trial and error to discover new possibilities as we struggled against defeat. I deeply appreciate the effort and energy they put into this project.

Young Scientists' Prize

Associate Professor Jun Takaya and Associate Professor Kazuhiko Maeda received the Young Scientists' Prize in the 2016 Commendation for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

To be eligible for consideration, candidates must be individuals under 40 years of age whose research and development exhibit uniqueness, highly advanced ability, and exceptional merit. The eight Tokyo Tech recipients spoke about their work.

Jun Takaya
Associate Professor, School of Science

Prize-winning research: Development of efficient molecular transformations utilizing transition metal catalysts bearing a group 14 element-centered pincer type ligand

Assoc. Prof. Takaya

Assoc. Prof. Takaya

The creation and utilization of new molecules is one of the most important and interesting aspects of research in chemistry. We have synthesized new transition metal complexes bearing a group 14 element-centered pincer type ligand and successfully developed useful synthetic reactions of unreactive molecules such as carbon dioxide and unsaturated hydrocarbons utilizing these complexes as catalysts. We also clarified unprecedented non-innocent behavior of the group 14 elements as supporting ligands, which enabled new reaction mechanisms for bond activation and formation. These findings provide useful insights for designing transition metal catalysts in organometallic and synthetic organic chemistry.

It is a great honor to receive this award, and I want to express my appreciation to professor Nobuharu Iwasawa, my coworkers, and other faculty members for their generous support throughout this research.

Kazuhiko Maeda
Associate Professor, School of Science

Prize-winning research: Semiconductor photocatalyst generating hydrogen from sunlight and water

Assoc. Prof. Maeda

Assoc. Prof. Maeda

I have been focusing on the development of a powder photocatalyst that generates hydrogen from water under sunlight. The importance of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier is increasing, and generating hydrogen from water and solar energy, both in abundant supply, would be a true breakthrough. A powder photocatalyst would potentially open up use in much larger areas exposed to plenty of sunlight, paving the way for future commercialization.

Through my research into artificial compounds that have not yet been reported, that is, materials that do not exist naturally, I have clarified that oxynitrides function as photocatalysts that are effective in splitting water under irradiation of sunlight. Furthermore, my work on promoting surface reactions with photocatalysts has for the first time resulted in a solar energy conversion efficiency comparable to that of natural photosynthesis in green plants.

Development of semiconductor photocatalyst and co-catalyst for visible light decomposition of water

Development of semiconductor photocatalyst and co-catalyst for visible light decomposition of water

I would like to express my deep appreciation to all the people who have supported my research. I would like to express special thanks to Professor Kazunari Domen at the University of Tokyo, Professor Michikazu Hara at Tokyo Tech who taught me while I was a student, my research partners who sacrificed their time and energy discussing and finding solutions under difficult circumstances, and my family and friends, who supported me on a daily basis. Keeping this award in mind, I am committed to continuing my research and teaching.

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