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Father of nanochemistry – U of T’s Geoffrey Ozin recognized for contributions to energy technology

U of T's Geoffrey Ozin (seated fourth from left) and his research group are renowned for their pioneering research in nanochemistry (photo by Diana Tyszko)

An Arts & Science professor who was essential to the birth of nanochemistry has been named the winner of the World Technology Award in the field of energy.

Geoffrey Ozin, the distinguished University Professor of chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science and Canada Research Chair in nanochemistry, is among the winners of the prestigious award, presented each year to outstanding innovators from each sector within the technology arena by the World Technology Network.

The WTN is “a curated membership community comprised of the world's most innovative individuals and organizations in science, technology and related fields.” It encourages new relationships that can lead to the formation of new ideas and resultant breakthroughs that have an impact on our world.

“Winning this prestigious World Technology Network Award means a great deal to me and my coworkers – it is a globally recognized award that showcases our pioneering contributions to the field of nanochemistry,” Ozin said. “The groundbreaking nanochemistry research of the past and present members of my group that began in the early seventies provided the spark that helped make all of the ongoing research, funding and new products and processes possible.

“My group is renowned for their pioneering research in nanochemistry. This work has defined, enabled and popularized a chemical approach to nanomaterials, a rapidly expanding field, a cornerstone of modern chemistry and a foundation for innovative nanotechnology in advanced materials and biomedical science. This emerging and dynamic interdisciplinary field is an essential driver of the 21st century nanotechnology revolution.”

Read about Professor Ozin's research to convert carbon dioxide to fuel

Ozin himself is involved in the practical aspects of this revolution. He is the co-founder of two start-up companies, one that manufactures scientific instrumentation and another whose mission is to commercialize a portfolio of photonic crystal based products.

Although he began his work in nanochemistry about 45 years ago, his research and interests continue to bear new fruit.

During the past six years, Ozin and his team discovered ultra-thin nanowires, a new class of nanowires with a diameter below two nanometres. These extremely thin inorganic nanowires look, grow and behave like organic polymers.

Ozin and his group have also been immersed in green nanochemistry research that may make it possible to develop new advanced materials and biomedical devices.

Read more about his work

One of his current passions is solar technology fuels. Ozin has been focusing on carbon dioxide, which is generally considered a liability. He hopes to discover ways to use a combination of carbon dioxide and a source of hydrogen to create solar fuels that will reduce human reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

His interest in nanoscience has also expanded to combine science with the arts. Working with artist Todd Siler, he co-founded ArtNanoInnovations, a company that “seeks to explore the possibilities of nature-inspired innovations in nanoscience and nanotechnology that can benefit humankind,” through multimedia artwork and esthetic experiences.

In addition to considering new ways to synthesize nanomaterials and apply them responsibly, ArtNanoInnovations also plans to critique the impact of nanomaterials on humanity and its environment.

Ozin remains dedicated to nanochemistry and is confident of the positive role it continues to play in society.

“It is tremendously satisfying to see so many scientists and engineers working on nanochemistry-related problems around the globe in universities, industries, national laboratories, so much research funding going to nanochemistry, so many textbooks and university courses on the subject, so many products and processes based on nanomaterials that are beginning to make our world a better and safer place through nanochemistry,” Ozin said.