The University of British Columbia
The frenetic pace of the global economy and demand for innovative technology has heightened the demand for materials that are stronger, lighter and more flexible or have unique properties. Few working in the field are more imaginative or innovative than the University of British Columbia’s Mark MacLachlan, whose research breakthroughs have produced truly novel materials.
Dr. MacLachlan explores the potential for invention through supramolecular chemistry—a discipline that takes advantage of the fact that molecules with specific shapes and properties will self-assemble to form new materials. His achievements have earned him a 2012 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from NSERC.
One of his most notable discoveries was the development of a new iridescent film from the same silica material used to make glass, with a special spiral pore structure that mimics the structure and properties of beetle shells. He then devised a way of tuning the wavelength of light reflected by the film so it would filter or reflect infrared, ultraviolet or coloured light. These materials could be used as coatings on windows or eyeglasses to protect against harmful ultraviolet or infrared light, or to reduce heating and air conditioning requirements in buildings and cars. Dr. MacLachlan has also transferred the structure of this silica material to carbon and semiconductors in an effort to develop a new kind of display.
Dr. MacLachlan’s other discoveries have generated materials that show promise as electrodes for supercapacitors—new high-energy storage devices that may replace car batteries—and as alternative ways to safely store hydrogen for possible use in hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The Steacie Fellowship will enable Dr. MacLachlan to advance this ongoing work and to develop the next generation of materials engineered to offer special optical properties.