Omar Yaghi Awarded the Inaugural VinFuture Special Prize

January 24, 2022
By: VinFuture Prize Press Release
Omar Yaghi at the VinFuture award ceremony - Vietnam
The first Special Prize, dedicated to “Innovators with Outstanding Achievements in Emerging Fields”, is awarded to Professor Omar Yaghi (USA) for his work on discovering metal-organic frameworks. — Photo courtsey VinFuture Prize

The first VinFuture Special Prize for Innovators with Outstanding Achievements for Emerging Fields was awarded to Professor Omar M. Yaghi for the discovery of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).

Professor Yaghi has been awarded this prize for scientific advancement with his pioneering work on the discovery and development of metal-organic framework and covalent organic framework materials which have the potential to improve the everyday lives of millions of people.

In 1995, Prof. Yaghi reported the successful preparation and crystallization of the first strongly-bonded porous framework, which has become an extensive class of porous materials named metal−organic frameworks (MOFs). His strong bond approach, where metal ions are joined by charged organic linkers exemplified by carboxylates, followed by proof of the MOF permanent porosity in 1998 and discovery of their ultrahigh porosity in 1999, set off a worldwide chain reaction leading to the development of the field reticular chemistry and properties. In 2005 he extended his approach to design and crystallization of the first 2D covalent organic frameworks (COFs) and in 2007 3D COFs. MOF and COF chemistry is now being practiced worldwide.

Prof. Yaghi's invention of MOFs and COFs is helping to achieve cleaner air, cleaner energy, and cleaner water. Prof. Yaghi’s MOF water harvester has the demonstrated potential of providing clean water anywhere at any time of the year and ultimately give people water independence.
 His pioneering work on carbon dioxide capture and hydrogen storage with MOFs and COFs opened the door for achieving “net zero emissions” in the future.

These nanoporous structures can be used for the capture, storage, separation, and controlled chemistry of a wide range of gases and molecules. They have a wide range of potential applications in support of the transition to zero net carbon, purification, catalysis, and sensing.

The event, held on January 20th, was attended by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Vingroup President Pham Nhat Vuong, world scientists and other high-ranking officials.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of science for development. "In the development history of mankind, scientists have changed the world", the PM said. 

"Today we honor the winning works, honor sciences contribution to mankind and honour scientists who spend their lives on research with exceptional minds, passion and great service. In Vietnam, sci-tech development is a priority, a breakthrough strategy to develop economy and society," PM Chinh said.  

“The VinFuture Prize 2021 recognizes truly outstanding scientific work that has made, and will make, a positive impact on the lives of millions, or even billions, of people around the world. The winners have brought new solutions for some of the most significant challenges that humanity is facing, such as infectious diseases and meeting the urgent need for zero-carbon energy," Professor Sir Richard Friend, VinFuture Prize Council Chair, said at the event.

For its first award round, the organizing board received over 1,200 entries from 654 leading universities, 51 well-known research institutes and 42 national science academies globally. Among the 599 innovations in the competition, about 100 are made by the top 2 per cent of the most-cited scientists in the world. Female scientists in the event accounted for 34.3 per cent of the total, many of them winners of Nobel, Breakthrough, Tang and Japan prizes.

The competition drew participants from 60 countries globally; 52.6 per cent of the projects are from North America and the European Union. Vietnam also joined with 17 projects. The result far exceeded expectations for a brand new prize like VinFuture.

About Professor Omar Yaghi

Omar M. Yaghi(link is external) received his B.S. from State University of New York at Albany (1985) and Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1990). He was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University (1990-92). 

He started his independent career as an assistant professor in 1992 at Arizona State University, moved to University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as Robert W. Parry Professor of Chemistry in 1999, and then UCLA in 2006 as Christopher S. Foote Professor of Chemistry and Irving and Jean Stone Chair Professor in Physical Sciences. 

Since 2012 he has been the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. He is the Founding Director of the Berkeley Global Science Institute, and the Co-Director of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute, and the California Research Alliance by BASF.