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The Nanoscientists

George Christou,Wei David Wei, and Charles Martin work with tiny things with big implications.

Today is #NanoDays, and the University of Florida's Department of Chemistry is thrilled to have two extraordinary chemists who straddle disciplines as they conduct (sometimes literally) cutting-edge research.

george christou

George Christou is the Drago Chair of Chemistry at the University of Florida. Christou specializes in nano-magnets: single-molecule magnets and other magnetic metal-oxo compounds. These microscopic, long-lasting substances have applications to medical, computing, and industrial technologies

Unlike the refrigerator magnets you know, the magnets Christou studies are created at a molecular level. They can be as small as two nanometers, or about the width of a strand of human DNA. These molecular nano-magnets may be grown in crystals to offer 3-D storage of information. The discovery of single-molecule magnets may contribute to tremendous advancements in computing by exponentially increasing the amount of data that could be stored in a minuscule space. It may seem like science fiction, but Christou says, “It’s only a moment away from science fact.” Read more

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recent achievements

2017: Christou received the SEC's Faculty Achievement Award. Story

2016: Christou one of only two Florida chemists named as a fellow of the American Chemical Society. Story

2016: Christou wins the prestigious Nylhom Prize for Inorganic Chemistry. Story

2016: The American Chemical Society granted Christou the Southern Chemist Award.

2015–2016: Christou named Teacher–Scholar of the Year at UF.

2015: With Hai-Ping Cheng (Physics) and Xiao-Guang Zhang (Physics), Christou received a $1.2 million award from the NSF DMREF program to support their search for and design of novel, nano-structured, multifunctional molecular electronic materials. Story

2014–2015: Christou was one of only a handful of chemists on the Highly Cited Researchers list for 2014 and 2015.


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wei david wei

Wei David Wei is an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Florida.

He has figured out how gold can be used in crystals grown by light to create nanoparticles, a discovery that has major implications for industry and cancer treatment and could improve the function of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and solar panels.

Wei has spent the last decade working in nanotechnology. He is intrigued by its applications in photochemistry and biomedicine, especially in targeted drug delivery and photothermal therapeutics, which is crucial to cancer treatment.

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Nanoparticles can be “grown” in crystal formations with special use of light, in a process called plasmon-driven synthesis. However, scientists have had limited control unless they used silver, but silver limits the uses for medical technology. The team is the first to successfully use gold, which works well within the human body, with this process.

Gold is highly desired for nanotechnology because it is malleable, does not react with oxygen, and conducts heat well. Those properties make gold an ideal material for nanoparticles, especially those that will be placed in the body.

When polyvinylpyrrolidone, or PVP, a substance commonly found in pharmaceutical tablets, is used in the plasmon-driven synthesis, it enables scientists to better control the growth of crystals. In Wei’s research, PVP surprised the team by showing its potential to relay light-generated “hot” electrons to a gold surface to grow the crystals.


A 2016 paper published in Nature Materials describes the first plasmonic synthesis strategy that can make high-yield gold nanoprisms. Even more exciting, the team has demonstrated that visible-range and low-power light can be used in the synthesis. Combined with nanoparticles being used in solar photovoltaic devices, this method can even harness solar energy for chemical synthesis, to make nanomaterials or for general applications in chemistry. Read more

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charles r. martin

Charles R. "Chuck" Martin is a Crow and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

Beginning in the 1980s, his research group pioneered a powerful and versatile approach for preparing nanomaterials called template synthesis. This method has since become a workhorse procedure for preparing nanomaterials, and is used in laboratories throughout the world. His research currently focuses on applications of template-prepared nanotubes and nanotube membranes to electrochemical biosensors and to electrochemical energy.

recent achievements

2009: Martin received the Charles N. Reilley Award of the Society for Electroanalytical Chemistry.

2007: Martin received a Nano 50 Innovator Award from Nanotech Briefs.

2005: Martin received the Florida Award of the Florida Section of the American Chemical Society.

1999: Martin received the Carl Wagner Memorial Award of the Electrochemical Society.