Omar Yaghi: The Bond Builder

“I am going to chain you to that bench. You are going nowhere until you do that (crystallization). I don’t know whether by fear of torture or by the love of Chemistry it got done. That is sometimes how Science works”

 

The Refugee Kid, Omar Yaghi

Omar Yaghi is a young refugee kid. He spends his time with his refugee family trying to make sense of life. He is originally from Palestine and is born in the year 1965. The family shifts to Amman in Jordan for a better life. For the young Omar, access to clean water and electricity is a luxury. He is a curious child and likes education. Science and learning fascinate him, and he wishes to explore more. At 15 years, his father encourages him to travel to America. He is skeptical about the enormity of the suggestion.

The land is foreign, and he does not know the language. For a young Palestinian boy, education from the west is a dream come true. Attends the Hudson Valley Community College. He completes his degree from the University at Albany, SUNY.

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Beginning of a Dream – Omar Yaghi

This is surreal for Omar Yaghi. Being a bright kid, academics fascinate him. He graduates from the University of Illinois. Under the guidance of Professor Walter G Klemperer, he completes his Ph.D. The year is 1990 and things turn great for young Yaghi. He gains the title of the National Science Foundation Postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.

This is among some of the greatest achievements yet to come for Yaghi. Before moving to the University of California in 2012, Omar Yaghi has quite a few honorable achievements. In the year 1992, Yaghi is on the faculties of Arizona State University. He is here as an assistant professor. This follows with Robert W Parry Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. In the year 2007-2012, he is also the Christopher S Foote Professor of Chemistry. He also holds the Irving and Jean Stone Chair in Physical Science here.

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Building the Bonds

It is in the year 1999 that Omar M. Yaghi breaks a historical world record. This if for developing MOF-5. The major accomplishment was to create a compound with the highest surface area at 6500 meter square per gram. This got him listed among the top two most cited Chemists globally. However, the magic of these lives in the miracle it holds. He is the pioneer for the field of ‘Reticular Chemistry’. This includes the ‘stitching’ together of molecular building blocks together using strong bonds. This results in a ‘framework’ of a structure. This is a breakthrough in Science.

Thus, we now have a potential solution for clean energy technologies. The possibility of Hydrogen and Methane storage has gained a new facet altogether. This technology has also pioneered work for harvesting water from desert air. Likewise, Yaghi can also achieve molecular weaving. He uses this to synthesize the world’s first-ever material woven at the atomic and molecular level.

 

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The Miracle molecule

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Omar M. Yaghi has since received major recognition worldwide. Development of the ‘Metal-Organic Framework’ or the MOF has revolutionized the scientific world. As a result, this technology cites to solve various energy-related concerns. Reticular Chemistry holds the solution to create ‘chemistry’ beyond the molecule.  Highly efficient semi-conductors comprise MOF technology, thus making it a level up. Bio-mimetic mineralization is yet another great application. This incorporates the biomolecules during the crystallization of MOFs. As a result, they can encapsulate Protein, DNA, and antibodies within the ‘framework’.

The resulting molecules are more stable and can withstand tough conditions. Likewise, they can also use the technology for the process of water vapor capture and dehumidification. This finds great application in increasing energy efficiency at room temperature space cooling applications.

Awards and Honors

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There has been no looking back for Professor Yaghi since then. He is a ‘rockstar’ in the science-arena. The ‘Popular Science’ has listed him among the ‘Brilliant 10’ in the United States, 2006. He has also received the US Department of Energy Hydrogen Program award for ‘Hydrogen Storage’. Yaghi is the only scientist to receive the Materials Research Society Medal for his work.

In the year 2009, he receives the American Chemical Society Chemistry of Material Award. He is also the winner of the King Faisal International Prize in Chemistry and Mustafa Prize in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Yaghi associates himself with the World Cultural Council. He mentors emerging scholars across the world. He dedicates his passion, knowledge, and resources to offer solutions to improve sustainability in the world. Quite a long walk for a kid who doesn’t have electricity while growing-up.

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