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INS's Sarbajit Banerjee Recognized by MIT's Technology Review as One of the World's Top Young Innovators

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Published August 23, 2012

Sarbajit Banerjee, whose research is directly affiliated with the Strategic Strength in Integrated Nanostructured Systems, recently named one of the "Top 35 Innovators Under 35" by Technology Review. 

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By CHARLOTTE HSU
Published: August 23, 2012

MIT’s Technology Review magazine has named Sarbajit Banerjee, UB assistant professor of chemistry, as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.

Banerjee joins 34 other innovators around the world as members of this year’s TR35, Technology Review’s annual listing of 35 young people who are employing technology to tackle pressing problems.

Previous honorees have included iMac designer Jonathan Ive, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Nobel Laureate Konstantin Novoselov, as well as many less widely known trailblazers. Innovators represent fields spanning biotechnology, computers, electronics, energy, the Web, nanotechnology and other emerging fields.

Banerjee was selected for his pioneering work in developing vanadium-oxide nanomaterials, which could one day be used in coatings for smart windows that save energy by reflecting the sun’s heat on hot summer days.

A major home building products manufacturer is helping to test the materials’ performance, and UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach is preparing to submit a U.S. non-provisional patent application for the technology next month.

The TR35 is available online  and also will appear in print in the September edition of Technology Review, which is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“This is a tremendous honor for Dr. Banerjee and important recognition of his impressive research portfolio,” says Charles F. Zukoski, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Dr. Banerjee was recruited to UB as part of the UB 2020 long-range plan and exemplifies the promise and impact to which we aspire.”

Banerjee, who will present on the research at Technology Review’s EmTech MIT 2012 conference in Cambridge, Mass., in October, says he’s heavily invested in the growth of the Western New York economy.

“Materials are the driving force for a lot of advanced manufacturing and if we want to be a player in that sector, we have to do the kind of translational research that transforms laboratory discoveries into usable technologies.”

Banerjee is the second member of the UB community whose work has been recognized this month by a national magazine. On Aug. 1, Forbes featured 2011 UB graduate Ansar Khan in its 2012 list of “All-Star Student Entrepreneurs,” recognizing Khan for co-founding a high-tech company with his UB classmate James O’Leary.

Banerjee joined the UB faculty in 2007 after completing postdoctoral research at Columbia University. Since then, he has received several important research prizes, including the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, the foundation’s most prestigious award for junior investigators.

Banerjee’s partners on his vanadium oxide research include his first PhD student, Luisa Whittaker, who won the Materials Research Society’s Graduate Student Gold Award for the work. It’s the highest honor a student can receive in recognition of materials research, Banerjee says.

Vanadium oxides are synthetic compounds with a very special property: They are transparent to infrared light at lower temperatures, but begin reflecting infrared when they heat up.

By building and testing new compounds, Banerjee’s team managed to lower the temperature at which vanadium-oxide nanomaterials begin repelling heat—a key improvement for making the materials useful in windows.

Banerjee, who has a passion for applied science, has been actively involved in developing UB’s newly designated New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics.

The center, designated earlier this year, will focus on the discovery and commercialization of innovative new materials.

Banerjee’s work on vanadium oxide is one example of the kind of research the center would accelerate. The research was interdisciplinary, involving contributions from former UB chemistry PhD student Christopher Patridge; UB chemistry graduate student Peter Marley; and the research groups of UB physics department faculty members Sambandamurthy Ganapathy and Peihong Zhang.

“New York State’s investment in the Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics underscores the importance of the work that Dr. Banerjee and his colleagues are doing,” says Alexander N. Cartwright, UB vice president for research and economic development.

“Being named to the TR35 is a prestigious recognition,” Cartwright notes. “This award recognizes Dr. Banerjee’s tremendous research program and demonstrates how the development of new materials can make a difference in the lives of people worldwide.”