Chemists awarded international innovation grant

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 2, 2008 – Three chemists in the College of Science at Virginia Tech have been awarded the top prize in an international innovation grant competition sponsored by Collano, a Switzerland-based company that works to establish new benchmarks for bonding materials with specialized adhesives systems.

Professors Tim Long and Robert Moore, and Assistant Professor Louis Madsen were awarded $50,000 to research the concept of functionalized adhesive films that emulate the lock-and-key principle of hydrogen bonds found in nature.

The university’s Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute, directed by Richard Turner, research professor in the Department of Chemistry, was also instrumental in achieving the award by orchestrating visits of the Collano jury to campus and coordinating the award application process. The institute is an interdisciplinary group committed to continuing the growth and advancing the stature of the existing, highly-ranked macromolecular science and engineering program at Virginia Tech.

The objective of the research team is to produce molecules that know precisely where they have to stick and where they should not stick. For this purpose, molecular sequences closely related to DNA are applied to the material surface. These sequences can be recognized by adhesives that are equipped with complementary sequences based on the code/anti-code principle. They bond where the code matches and do not bond elsewhere. The special chemical properties of the principle make it possible to trigger this functionality with a light-exposure process, allowing bonding zones to be written onto surfaces with optical means.

The research is in its early phases and will take years before the concept can be translated into a commercial product. Potential applications exist in the fields of medical technology and security.

Long earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Virginia Tech in 1989. Moore earned his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Texas A & M University in 1988. Madsen earned his doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 2002.

The Collano Innovation Grant is allocated to individuals or project teams in academic or industrial research. It rewards innovations in chemical technology that make it possible to overcome the boundaries of materials.