The King Faisal Foundation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has awarded the 2015 King Faisal International Prize (including endowment of US$200,000) for Science in the field of chemistry to Michael Grätzel of Switzerland and Omar Mwannes Yaghi of USA. Michael Grätzel (born in 1944 in Dorfchemnitz, Saxony, Germany) the Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces (Institute of Physical Chemistry), Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland. The prize committee stated that ‘Michael Grätzel is recognized for his foundational and practical discoveries in the development of photo-electrochemical systems for solar energy conversion. His world-famous Grätzel solar cells are simple and relatively inexpensive to manufacture, and they possess unique practical properties including flexibility and transparency. Grätzel’s work has had and will continue to have a major impact on the practical realization of solar-energy conversion’. Grätzel solar cells are the dye-sensitized solar cells that provide a technically and economically credible alternative concept to the conventional p–n junction photovoltaic devices. Grätzel solar cells have high efficiency and are being mass produced.
Omar Mwannes Yaghi (born in 1965 in Jordan) is a Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. The prize committee stated that ‘Omar Yaghi has made seminal contributions in the field of metal organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs possess a wide array of potential applications including materials for gas storage, gas/vapour separation, catalysis, luminescence, and drug delivery. In the last two decades, he developed MOFs through innovative approaches to construct novel materials and explored their applications in various fields, including encapsulation of bio-molecules, and capturing of gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen’. Metal–organic frameworks are extended porous structures composed of transition metal ions (or clusters) that are linked by organic bridges. MOFs represent a new class of network solids that have great potential in specific applications such as separation, storage, heterogeneous catalysis and controlled drug delivery. MOFs are excellent for storing hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Grätzel’s work is optics-related. This is an additional boost to the on-going activities of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. It is to be recalled that by another remarkable coincidence both the Physics and Chemistry Nobel Prizes of 2014 are related to optics. The Physics Nobel prize citation honors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for ‘the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources’. The Chemistry prize to Eric Betzig, Stefan W. Hell and William E. Moerner is ‘for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy’. The last time light sources and imaging captured two Nobel Prizes in the same year was 1964. That year the Physics prize was awarded to Charles Hard Townes, Nicolay Gennadiyevich Basov and Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov for masers and lasers; and the Chemistry prize was awarded to Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin for biochemical studies using X-ray crystallography.
The award ceremony took place on 1 March 2015 in Riyadh, under the auspices of the King of Saudi Arabia. The Science prize for the year 2016 is in the field of Biology. The deadline for all nominations is 1 May 2015 and the details can be found at: http://www.kfip.org/.