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MRS Press Release

Richard B. Kaner selected as 2015 MRS Medalist

November 23, 2015
Press & Public Relations Contact:

Ryan Rebholz
Communications Manager
Materials Research Society

WARRENDALE, PARichard B. Kaner, University of California, Los Angeles, has been selected to receive the 2015 Materials Research Society (MRS) Medal. He is cited "for the discovery of efficient methods to synthesize water dispersible conducting polymer nano-fibers and their applications in sensors, actuators, molecular memory devices, catalysis, and the novel process of flash welding."

Kaner will deliver his award talk—Synthesis and Applications of Conducting Polymer Nanofibers—at the 2015 MRS Fall Meeting in Boston on Tuesday, December 1, at 5:15 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Boston Hotel. He will be recognized during the MRS Awards Ceremony on December 2, where he will be presented with the MRS Medal.

Kaner's most important breakthrough came just 10 years ago while he was trying to develop a method to create high-surface-area polyaniline for use in sensors. He and his students developed an interfacial polymerization technique analogous to that used to produce nylon. However, while in the nylon reaction, the polymer remains at the interface between aqueous and organic phases. Kaner demonstrated that when polyaniline forms at the interface between an organic phase containing aniline and an aqueous phase containing oxidant and acid, the doped polyaniline created is hydrophilic and immediately goes into the aqueous phase. This results in nanofibrillar morphology with high surface area and excellent sensing properties. Nanostructured conducting polymers can now be made in a simple, easily reproducible process with inexpensive reagents.

Kaner then showed that by changing the acid used, polyaniline nanofibers could be made in different average diameters ranging from 30 nm to 120 nm. Next, he reported an even simpler synthetic route to conducting polymer nanofibers called rapid mixing. He demonstrated that nanofibers are stable indefinitely in water simply by controlling the pH and salt concentration. With this discovery, Kaner created stable water-based dispersions of pure polyaniline (i.e., polyaniline paints and inks that contain no surfactants).

Kaner started a company, Fibron Technologies, Inc., that demonstrated the efficient synthesis of conducting polymer nanofibers at the 100 L scale. These advances have now been taken over by Water Planet Engineering, which is developing advanced membranes for important separations such as cleaning the oily water left after hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") to recover oil. Future advances in processable conducting polymers developed by Kaner are anticipated to find applications in many products, including sensors, catalysts, and electronic devices.

Kaner has been recognized as a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles (2012). He is a Fellow of Materials Research Society (2011) and has received the American Chemical Society Award in the Chemistry of Materials (2012).

Photo of Kaner available upon request at fornataro@mrs.org .

About the Materials Research Society

MRS is an organization of over 12,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government worldwide, and a recognized leader in promoting the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve the quality of life. MRS members are students and professionals hailing from physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering—the full spectrum of materials research. Headquartered in Warrendale, Pennsylvania (USA), MRS membership now spans 90 countries, with approximately 45 percent of members residing outside the United States.

MRS serves and engages members across generations to advance their careers and promote materials research and innovation. The Society produces high-quality meetings and publications, assuring that members of all career stages can present and publish their most important and timely work to an international and interdisciplinary audience. MRS continues to expand its professional development portfolio, as well as promote diversity and inclusion in the scientific workforce, with career services for researchers worldwide. The Society advocates for the importance of scientific research and innovation to policymakers and the community. And the MRS Awards program honors those whose work has already had a major impact in the field, as well as those whose work shows great promise for future leadership.

For more information about the Materials Research Society visit mrs.org and follow @Materials_MRS.