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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Avelino Corma Canós, Mark E. Davis and Galen D. Stucky

Prince of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research 2014

The scientific and technical contributions of these three chemists have opened up very important novel lines of research that are on the frontiers of current knowledge, with direct applications in the reduction of pollutant emissions from vehicles and factories as well as in the processes of refining petroleum and in the chemical industry in general. The chemists Avelino Corma, Mark E. Davis and Galen D. Stucky are on the cutting edge worldwide in the creation of new materials, specifically microporous and the mesoporous materials. The former are characterized by having a structure with a pore diameter of less than 2 nanometres and comprise materials such as zeolites and natural and artificial aluminosilicates with extraordinary absorbent properties as industrial catalysts. The latter having pores of up to 50 nanometres in diameter and including various kinds of substances such as silica, alumina and the oxides of different mechanical elements.

Avelino Corma Canós

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Avelino Corma Canos (Moncófar, Castellón, Spain, 1951) graduated in Chemistry at the University of Valencia and earned his PhD from the Complutense University of Madrid in 1976. After two years of studies at Queen’s University, Kingston (Canada), he joined the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) as a Researcher in 1979 and as a Research Lecturer in 1987. Between 1990 and 2010, he headed the Institute of Chemical Technology, jointly dependent on the Polytechnic University of Valencia and CSIC, considered one of the centres of reference in the field of catalytic processes. Currently, he is a Research Lecturer at this Institute. Acknowledged as an international authority in the field of heterogeneous catalysis, Corma work involves the creation of new materials made up of nanopores formed via the self-assembly of organic and inorganic molecules. He uses molecular-sized cavities and pores to generate confined spaces and active sites, which change the structure and reactivity of molecules, giving rise to catalytic processes that take place with higher selectivity.

Author of over 100 patents, he has written three books and has published over 900 articles in international journals, ranking among the 25 most-cited chemists in the world –being the highest ranking Spanish researcher. He published a new concept in Nature –2007 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities– for the synthesis of molecular sieves enabling the synthesis of Zeolite A, among other materials, as an additive to catalysts for the petrochemical and refining industry. Science –2007 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 2007– published another of his studies, on a gold nanoparticle catalyst that reduces the nitro group of a molecule without altering the other groups, which was to have applications in the fight against cancer. Holder of honorary degrees from ten universities and Foreign Member of The Royal Society of London –2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities–, among other distinctions he has received the National Research Council Award (1995), the G. Ciapetta Award ( USA, 1998), the Rey Jaime I Prize (2000), the François Gault European Catalysis Award (2002), the Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association (2004), the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry Award (2006), the Gabor A. Somorjai Award (USA, 2008), the Boudart Award in Advanced Catalysis (USA, 2009) and the ENI New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons Award (Italy, 2010).

Mark E. Davis

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Mark E. Davis (Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA, 1955) studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Kentucky, where he received his PhD in 1981. Between 1981 and 1990, he lectured at Virginia Polytechnic and State University and, in 1991, after a year as a visiting professor at Stanford, began working at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he is currently the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering. Since 2004, he has also been a member of the Experimental Therapeutics Program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center. Davis began working in the field of zeolites in Virginia. During the 1980s and 90s, he started up many programs on the synthesis of materials and created new classes of catalysts and molecular sieves. One of the great successes of his research group was to expand the standard pore size of zeolite, which varied from 0.2 to 0.8 nanometres, to more than 1 nanometre. Davis’ group also created a technique called supported aqueous phase catalysis, which can be used for the solid-supported synthesis of chiral drugs, of major use in the pharmaceutical industry. At Caltech, Davis has been working on a synthetic material that can mimic the ability of enzymes to orchestrate what chemists call a cooperative acid-base reaction. He also started research in the field of biomaterials and, shortly after, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, which led to Davis to focus his efforts on finding new ways to manage cancer therapies more specifically after seeing the effects of chemotherapy. His achieved his early successes loading cyclodextrin-based nanoparticles with the anticancer agent camptothecin and injecting the compound into groups of mice with various types of cancer. The experiment worked, as the cyclodextrin protected the drug from the slightly alkaline environment of the animals’ blood preventing it from being excreted. This therapy is currently in Phase I of clinical trials.

Author of numerous scientific articles, Davis sits on the editorial board of Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, among other publications. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for Cancer Research, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. Davis has been distinguished with the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1985), the Donald Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association (1989), the Alan T. Waterman Award (being the first engineer to receive this award), the National Science Foundation Award (1990), the Elmer Gaden Award from the American Chemical Society (2009) and the Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis (2014), among others. On the occasion of its centennial in 2008, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers included him in its list of “One Hundred Engineers of the Modern Era”.

Galen D. Stucky

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Galen D. Stucky (McPherson, Kansas, USA, 1936) graduated in Chemistry and Physics from McPherson College in 1957 and obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Iowa State University in 1962. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1962-1963) and at the Institute of Quantum Chemistry, Gainesville (1963). He later worked at the University of Illinois (1964-1980), the Sandia National Laboratory (1979-1981) and at DuPont Central Research and Development (1981-1985). In 1985, he joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is currently professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and in the Materials Department and member of the Interdepartmental Program in Biomolecular Science and Engineering. Stucky’s work is on  the cutting edge of demonstrating how porous materials can be synthesized and selectively converted into desired morphologies for applications in optics, catalysis, energy storage and separation. He has also carried out in vivo studies on biomineralization, the concepts of which he is currently applying to the in vitro synthesis of complex composite materials. The general aim of his current lines of research comprises the design and synthesis of new materials and the creation of 3-D multifunctional systems through cooperative molecular assembly. Biomaterials, nanostructured organic and inorganic polymers, molecular sieves, mesoporous, thermoelectric catalytic and electro-optical materials are being synthesized and studied by the Stucky group. Author of over 700 scientific articles, he is the holder of 28 patents.

He is a fellow of the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as honorary professor of Fudan University, Shanghai. The distinctions he has received include the Humboldt Research Prize (2000), the American Chemical Society Award in Chemistry of Materials (2002) and the International Mesostructured Materials Association Award (2004). In 2008, he received the Advanced Technology Applications for Combat Casualty Care Award from the US Department of Defense for developing a clotting gauze that helped save the lives of severely injured soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

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