Pulickel Ajayan, the Henry Burlage Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, is being awarded the MRS Medal from the Materials Research Society and has been named by Scientific American magazine as a Research Leader within the 2006 "Scientific American 50" -- the magazine's prestigious annual list recognizing outstanding acts of leadership in science and technology.
"Professor Ajayan is a world-renowned expert in fabricating materials and devices based on his creative chemical and physical manipulation of carbon," said Acting Provost Robert Palazzo. "His research is unlocking information about how to direct the assembly of carbon at the atomic level, providing opportunities for the assembly of a cornucopia of carbon-based nanostructures.
Professor Ajayan's creative insight is already advancing research in a number of diverse fields related to medicine, environmental science, and microelectronics. We join in applauding his groundbreaking work and congratulate him for these exciting recognitions. Rensselaer is truly fortunate to have him as a distinguished member of our faculty."
Selected by the magazine's Board of Editors with the help of distinguished outside advisers, the Scientific American 50 recognizes research, business, and policy leaders who have played a critical role in driving key science and technology trends over the past year in fields including robotics, genetics, Alzheimer's research, nanotechnology, and more.
Ajayan has been named a Research Leader in the Material Progress category because of his work over the past year creating "super-resilient springs from carbon nanotubes that could one day be suitable for artificial joints," according to the official citation.
Carbon nanotubes have enticed researchers since their discovery in 1991, offering an impressive combination of high strength and low weight. Ajayan's work, which was reported in the Nov. 25, 2005 issue of the journal Science, shows that films of aligned multiwalled carbon nanotubes can act like a layer of mattress springs, flexing and rebounding in response to a force. But unlike a mattress, which can sag and lose its springiness, these nanotube foams maintain their resilience even after thousands of compression cycles.
The Scientific American 50 will appear in the magazine's December issue, which is expected to arrive on newsstands Nov. 21. The complete list may also be accessed on the magazine's Web site at www.sciam.com.
The MRS Medal is intended to offer public and professional recognition of an exceptional recent achievement in materials research. The medal is awarded for a specific outstanding recent discovery or advancement that is expected to have a major impact on the progress of any materials-related field.
Ajayan has been cited for "important developments in the materials science and applications of carbon nanotubes." He will receive the MRS Medal Nov. 29 at an awards ceremony and reception in conjunction with the 2006 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston. The award consists of a cash prize, an engraved and mounted medal, and a citation certificate. As part of the ceremony, Ajayan also will present an invited lecture about the controlled assembly of carbon nanotube architectures.
Ajayan has been involved in the development of carbon nanotubes from the very beginning: Soon after the first report of carbon nanotubes appeared in 1991, he and his colleagues at NEC Corporation reported the large-scale synthesis of nanotubes using the electric arc-discharge method. In 1993, he showed how nanotubes could be opened and filled with foreign materials using oxidation and capillarity effects.
Over the last decade-and-a-half, he has produced several seminal papers related to the development of carbon nanotubes and nanotube-based materials for materials science applications, and the use of electron-beam irradiation in the modification of carbon nanostructures. Recently his work has focused on the engineering of various organized carbon-nanotube architectures and the demonstration of these structures in applications leading to gas sensors, flexible composite films, and compressible foams.
Ajayan earned a B. Tech in metallurgical engineering from Banaras Hindu University in 1985, and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Northwestern University in 1989. After three years of postdoctoral experience at NEC Corporation in Japan, he spent two years as a research scientist at France's Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Orsay, and nearly a year-and-a-half as an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the Max-Planck-Institut fuer Metallforschung, in Stuttgart, Germany. In 1997, he joined the Materials Science and Engineering faculty at Rensselaer as an assistant professor. He is currently a full professor and holds the Henry Burlage Endowed Chair in Engineering.