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Eureka Prize nomination for Curtin research into chemical reactions

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Two Curtin University scientists are finalists in the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, for research that may enable more efficient and environmentally-friendly methods for producing materials ranging from drugs to plastics.

The Invisible Catalyst Team, which includes Dr Simone Ciampi and Dr Nadim Darwish, both ARC DECRA Fellows from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, and ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Michelle Coote from The Australian National University’s Research School of Chemistry, is a finalist for the 2019 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research.

Dr Darwish said the team’s research could lead to more cost-effective production of chemicals such as those used in pharmaceuticals and a lessening of the environmental impact associated with the use of traditional catalysts.

“We believe our research may lead to the fabrication of drugs and fine chemicals that are very difficult to make by conventional methods and our findings also have implications in the creating of miniaturised electronics, such as self-healing plastics or molecular diodes and transistors,” Dr Darwish said.

“We have demonstrated that electric fields can be used to manipulate chemical reactions.”

Dr Ciampi said the Invisible Catalyst Team had made major contributions to the understanding of chemical reactivity since 2013, with recent breakthroughs that could change the way synthetic chemistry was done.

“It is through chemical reactions that we grow, eat, reproduce or think, so expanding our capability in manipulating chemical reactions and their outcome is therefore a very important aim,” Dr Ciampi said.

Dr Ciampi is a chemist working in the field of physical chemistry whose research focuses broadly on semiconductor electrochemistry and surface chemistry.

Dr Darwish is at the forefront of nanotechnology research and has established Australia’s first facility for single-molecule electrical microscopy at the Curtin Institute of Functional Molecules and Interfaces.

The winners of the 2019 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced at an awards ceremony on August 28.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, considered Australia’s leading science awards, were established in 1990 to reward outstanding achievements in Australian science and science communication.

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