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Tobin Marks Receives Spanish Award For Creating 'Revolutionary Materials'

June 4, 2008 | by Megan Fellman
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Tobin J. Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Research Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, has received Spain's prestigious 2008 Prince of Asturias Prize for Scientific Research for his landmark work in the "creation of revolutionary new materials for the benefit of mankind."

Marks, a world leader in the field of chemical catalysis who has developed processes for numerous types of recyclable, environmentally friendly plastics, is one of three American and two Japanese scientists to receive the award. This is the first time the award, the highest scientific recognition bestowed by the government of Spain, has focused on the fields of materials science and materials chemistry.

Marks shares the award with chemist George M. Whitesides of Harvard University, physicist Sumio Iijima of Meijo University, and engineers Shuji Nakamura of the University of California-Santa Barbara and Robert Langer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

About granting the award to the five scientists for their work, the Prince of Asturias Foundation said: "As groundbreakers in the field of nanotechnology worldwide, these scientists have created new, revolutionary materials and transcendental techniques for fighting diseases, such as those related to the brain and cancer, and for producing artificial tissues and organs. Their work also stands out for its contribution to the protection of the environment and energy saving via the use of new sources of clean energy that may be produced at a low cost."

"I am deeply honored to receive this award," said Marks, "because it honors research that I have derived so much intellectual pleasure in carrying out as well as my present and past co-workers who made it happen, my collaborating colleagues who have taught me so much, and my family members who have been so patient."

The Prince of Asturias Prize for Scientific Research is bestowed upon "individuals, work groups or institutions whose discoveries or research represent a significant contribution to the progress of humanity in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, Earth and space sciences, as well as their related technical aspects and technologies."

Eight Prince of Asturias prizes, established in 1981, are awarded each year covering categories such as arts, scientific research, sports, letters and humanities. The awards include a cash prize of 50,000 euros ($78,000) and a sculpture by Spanish artist Joan Miró representing and symbolizing the awards. They are named for Prince Felipe, heir to the Spanish crown, and are presented each fall in Oviedo, capital of the northern region of Asturias.

Marks, who joined Northwestern in 1970, is a leader in the development and understanding of single-site olefin polymerization catalysis (now a multibillion dollar industry) as well as in the study of new materials having remarkable electrical, mechanical, interfacial and photonic properties.

He designed a co-catalyst that led to what is now a standard process for producing better polyolefins, including polyethylene and polypropylene. Found in everything from sandwich wrap to long underwear, these versatile and inexpensive plastics are lighter in weight and more recyclable than previous plastics.

Marks has developed a prototype of third-generation photovoltaic solar cells, composed of flexible, efficient, low-cost, organic materials, as well as new materials for sensors and light modulators enabling high-speed optical data transmission and processing. His other achievements include high-performance transistors and light-emitting diodes based on organic materials (OLEDs), which lead to energy savings and are being incorporated in electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptop computers and cellular phones, as well as being the basis of what is known as electronic paper.

Marks also has led major advances in the areas of transparent conducting oxides, the organometallic chemistry of lanthanides and actinides, chemical vapor deposition for thin films of interest to the electronics industry, models for metal ion environments in proteins, and catalytically important metal-boron hydride complexes.

During his career, Marks has received numerous awards, including some of the most prestigious national and international awards in the fields of inorganic, catalytic, materials and organometallic chemistry. Recent honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science, the American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal, the Cotton Medal from the Texas Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the John C. Bailar Medal from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Centenary and Sir Edward Frankland Prizes of the British Royal Society of Chemistry and the Karl Ziegler Prize of the German Chemical Society.

Marks also is the recipient of American Chemical Society Awards in Polymeric Materials (1983), Organometallic Chemistry (1989), Materials Chemistry (1994), Inorganic Chemistry (2001) and Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry (2008), and the ACS Chicago Section's 2001 Josiah Willard Gibbs Medal, regarded by many as the highest award given to chemists next to the Nobel Prize.

He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993, and to the Leopoldina, the German National Academy of Sciences, in 2005, and as a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Chemistry in 2005.

Marks has authored 902 articles in peer-reviewed journals, edited six books and holds 87 U.S. patents. He has served on numerous governmental and industrial advisory panels and is co-author of several major policy documents.
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