WASHINGTON, July 27, 2010 Ahmed H. Zewail, Ph.D., 1999 Chemistry Nobel Laureate and Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry & Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology, has been named winner of the 2011 Priestley Medal by the American Chemical Society (ACS).
The award recognizes Zewail's revolutionary methods for developing "ultraslow-motion" imaging for the study of ultrafast processes in chemistry, biology and materials science. His work is providing deep new insights into materials behavior and biological processes that determine health and disease. The annual award, the highest honor bestowed by ACS, consists of a gold medallion designed to commemorate the work of Joseph Priestley as well as a presentation box and a certificate.
"This work is changing not only what we know, but also how we think about the interplay of structure, dynamics and function in molecular systems," said David A. Tirrell, Ph.D., a Caltech professor and former chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. Tirrell adds that the advances made by Zewail's group "are yielding qualitatively new insights into the atomic and molecular origins of complex chemical, physical, and biological behavior."
Zewail pioneered femtochemistry, the study of ultrafast chemical processes on the femtosecond timescale using special lasers. A femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second, or one millionth of one billionth of a second. Some have described his pioneering laser technique as the world's fastest camera. It can capture frames of the ultrafast motion of atoms and molecules as they undergo the reactions that produce gasoline, plastics, medicines and the processes that make life possible. Just as "slow motion" replays in football and other sports capture the details of fast-paced motion, Zewail's "ultrafast camera" captures the complex details of reactions as they occur.
For hundreds of years, scientists believed it was impossibl
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American Chemical Society