This year, we have an amazing pool of candidates for the CELL Division Graduate Student Awards. The panel narrowed down to the top two candidates but were unable to decide who should get the 1st place as both of them were equally good. Therefore, the Division has decided to award, for the first time, joint 1st place to Kazuho Daicho from the University of Tokyo and Werner Schlemmer from Graz University of Technology.
Kazuho’s research focuses on the influence of the cellulose nanofibre (CNF) production process on the crystallinity of CNFs themselves. CNFs are produced by wet disintegration of wood pulp, and the pulp is purified or chemically modified in advance. Various CNFs with different morphologies, crystallinities, and surface functionalities can be currently manufactured. However, the practical use of CNFs is still limited. This situation arises from a lack of understanding of the precise structure of CNFs. Her breakthrough discovery is that the crystallinity of CNFs is governed by dispersion and assembly. Her award winning paper is “The Crystallinity of Nanocellulose: Dispersion-Induced Disordering of the Grain Boundary in Biologically Structured Cellulose”, published in ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 2018, 1, 5774-5785.
Werner’s research focuses on the analysis and valorization of lignocellulosic materials with the main focus on flow batteries based on lignin. Commercially available redox flow batteries mostly rely on heavy metal (vanadium, zinc) or halogen (bromine, iodine) based active materials. The breakthrough in his research is the development of stable vanillin- based electrolyte in a battery with excellent performance. As vanillin is one of the few fine chemicals produced in large scale from lignin, the importance of his findings are obvious given that flow batteries are large scale storage devices (up to 800 MWh), thus requiring huge quantities of electrolyte. His award winning paper is “2-Methoxyhydroquinone from Vanillin for Aqueous Redox-Flow Batteries”, published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 22943-22946.
Congratulations to both of them!