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Past Winner
2022 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Tomislav Friščić

NSERC John C. Polanyi Award

Department of Chemistry

McGill University

Solvents account for a significant proportion of waste in chemical-based industries and their elimination remains one of the holy grails of sustainable chemistry. An alternative methodology for clean, solvent‑free chemical synthesis and manufacturing is taking hold thanks to Pr. Tomislav Friščić. He and his group at McGill University have transformed mechanochemistry—chemical reactions induced and guided by mechanical force rather than solvents—into a viable technique that is not only replacing traditional manufacturing processes, but also enabling chemical reactions that were once thought impossible.

Most of the advanced materials that form the foundation of our modern economy involve waste‑generating, solvent-based chemical processes in their preparation. Friščić’s mechanochemical methods enable rapid, environmentally friendly processing and recycling of critical elements, and have demonstrated the feasibility of using mechanochemistry to synthesize commercial drugs entirely solvent-free.

Friščić and his team developed the first experimental design for real-time monitoring of structural and chemical changes in a chemical reaction that was conducted by milling. That was a breakthrough which is now producing unprecedented insights into the mechanisms and real-time progress of mechanochemical reactions. His work has since led to entirely novel catalytic reactions and produced materials and molecules that were previously unknown or were impossible to isolate with traditional solvent chemistry.

The work conducted and influenced by Friščić is poised to lead the “green” revolution of chemical manufacturing. His breakthroughs have revolutionized the field of mechanochemistry, and his innovations in real-time monitoring are currently being implemented at six synchrotron facilities around the world. He has influenced many researchers to adopt mechanochemistry in their own work though successful collaborations with academics in the US, Colombia, the UK, Germany, France, Estonia, Croatia and beyond.

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