Dwight Seferos wins Harry Gray Award

October 17, 2017 by Dan Haves

Professor Dwight Seferos has been named the recipient of the 2018 Harry Gray Award for Creative Work in Inorganic Chemistry by a Young Investigator. This award – given out annually by the American Chemical Society – recognizes the significant impact Seferos has had in multidisciplinary inorganic chemistry.

As the Canada Research Chair in Polymer Nanotechnology, Seferos is most well-known for his work with polytellurophenes, a class of tellurium-containing polymers that were long thought to be unstable and intractable materials. In 2010, Seferos’s group first described soluble, processable, well-defined polytellurophenes and has since gone on to develop new classes of metallopolymers based on tellurium.

“Carbon compounds that contain the metal tellurium are a very underexplored class of molecules,” he says. “And we’re learning more and more about some of the applications these might play a role in, things like catalysis as well as making conductive plastic materials.”

In another important finding, Seferos and his students created a battery using materials made from vitamin B2. This replaces materials that would normally be made from environmentally-dangerous metals like cobalt. This technology could pave the way for metal-free batteries that could be in high demand as consumer electronics become more and more abundant. Since a bio-derived battery is more flexible than those that use metal, this technology would be particularly appealing to “wearables” manufacturers.

Tyler Schon, a recent doctoral graduate and former member of the Seferos Research Group, will be heading a new start-up in Toronto to develop the battery further. Given the growing number of Toronto-based companies exploring wearable technology, Seferos believes this city is the perfect home for this start-up.

“There have been a lot of successful start-ups to come out of this department, so I’m really excited to see this project develop,” he says.

“Toronto is a great place, not only to start a company, but to do research as well. This city brings people from all over the world together, which really creates a vibrant learning environment. And the collaboration available to us working in Toronto is critical.”

Seferos is a strong believer in collaboration, particularly with experts in the fields of science outside of chemistry.

“I really try to teach my students that most of the advances in science these days comes at the interface of multiple disciplines,” says Seferos. “And there’s no better place to do that than at U of T.”

Seferos, who will accept the Harry Gray Award at the 255th ACS National Meeting in March, is quick to give credit to others.

“Harry Gray is one of the most, if not the most, accomplished bioinorganic chemists in the field, so I feel very honoured to have won this award,” he says. “But my students are the ones who are doing all of the work and I really just try to guide them in the right direction.”