Nicholas Kotov of University of Michigan is 2020 Alpha Chi Sigma Award Recipient

Above: Nicholas Kotov in his lab.

This fall, ChEnected continues to introduce readers to the recipients of AIChE’s 2020 Institute and Board of Directors’ Awards. These are AIChE’s highest honors, and recipients are nominated by the chemical engineering community and voted upon by the members of AIChE’s volunteer-led Awards Committee. The awards recognize outstanding achievements and world-class contributions across a spectrum of chemical engineering endeavors. 

The Alpha Chi Sigma Award

The Alpha Chi Sigma Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in fundamental or applied chemical engineering research, and is sponsored by the Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation and the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity.

The recipient of the 2020 Alpha Chi Sigma Award is Nicholas A. Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dr. Kotov is being recognized “for fundamental studies and practical implementations of self-assembly processes at the nanoscale.” He has demonstrated that the ability to self-organize into complex structures is an innate property of nanomaterials, and has exploited this knowledge in numerous ways. Direct consequences of his studies include the wide use of biomimetic nanocomposites in biomedical, energy, electronic, and military technologies.

In combining concepts characteristic of biology with those of nanoscale chemistry, he has pioneered the emergence of convergence research in the area of materials engineering.

I am tremendously grateful and humbled by this distinction from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. I am treating it as a recognition of the hard work and dedication of all my students and colleagues, whom I’ve had the honor to work with during all these years.

About Nicholas Kotov’s work

Dr. Kotov is known for foundational discoveries in biomimetic nanostructures and interface-based materials engineering that transcend multiple disciplines — from chemical engineering to materials science, soft electronics, energy technologies, drug discovery, biomedical implants, and robotic devices. Examples of biomimetic nanostructures associated with his work include graphite oxide-, graphene-, and clay-based layered biomimetic nanocomposites, chiral nanomaterials, and omni-dispersible colloids.  

He demonstrated that the ability to self-organize into complex structures is the unifying property of all nanostructures, inorganic, organic, or biological. He recreated the universal process by which complex biological structures are assembled, and uncovered pathways that nature uses to create these materials.

With this insight, he created a versatile family of composite materials for various chemical engineering processes from gas separation to charge transport, with extraordinary properties that had previously been deemed unattainable. Professor Kotov’s research methods have been adopted by researchers and industries around the globe — a testament to the wide reach of his discoveries.

His contributions to technology include ultrastrong nacre-mimetic nanocomposites, soft neuro-prosthetic implants, 3D tissue replicas for drug-testing, chiral biosensors, and cartilage-like electrolytes for batteries. He has founded several start-up companies that commercialized bioinspired nanomaterials for biomedical, energy, military, automotive, and robotics technologies.  

The 2020 Alpha Chi Sigma Award is generously sponsored by the Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation and the Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 Virtual AIChE Annual Meeting, we will feature other 2020 Institute and Board of Directors’ Award recipients, so please visit again to read more about these highly accomplished individuals. If you missed earlier award winners, check out the complete series to date.