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Winner of the first PANalytical Award: Thomas Bennett


The inaugural PANalytical Award of 2012 has been won by Dr. Thomas Bennett, affiliated to the Department of Materials Science at the University of Cambridge, UK. The prize was based on a research article published in Physical Review Letters (104, 115503, (2010)), entitled: "Structure and Properties of an Amorphous Metal-Organic Framework". As entrant and first author on the publication Dr. Bennett is to receive the PANalytical Award trophy, a certificate and € 5,000.

The PANalytical Award initiative was launched to reward and encourage exceptional young researchers who are most affected by the reduced government research spending in many regions. PANalytical has sought to provide a substantial, but more importantly a meaningful injection to the career of such an outstanding scientist.

Researchers that have never held a professorship and who use laboratoryscaleX-ray equipment as their primary analytical technique were eligible to apply for the award. Entries for the award could be submitted during the course of 2012 and had to have been published in the period between 1 January 2010 and 30 September 2012. The winning article was chosen by a committee composed primarily of independent researchers, unaffiliated to PANalytical and was selected from a strong field of entries submitted from across the globe.

A key feature of Dr. Bennett’s work is the interpretation of X-ray total scattering data (PDF). In conjunction with a variety of other techniques such as neutron scattering, electron diffraction, optical microscopy and computer modelling the authors provide a cohesive picture of the metal-organic framework under investigation. The selection committee was impressed by the level of understanding that Dr. Bennett and his co-workers were able to extract from combination of analytical techniques.

The study represents a significant step towards understanding this kind of amorphous materials, a realm that workers in the field of X-ray diffraction have found discouraging since the technique was established a century ago. Dr. Bennett comments on his research:

“The real promise here is that we can introduce chemical functionality into the crystalline material, before amorphization into a glass-like one. This is most likely the route to functional amorphous materials such as electroluminescent and optically active glasses. Part of the battle however will be getting people to look past the traditional boundaries of needing a crystalline material to work with.”

Thomas Bennett studied Natural Sciences (Chemistry) at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, graduating with MSci (Hons) in 2008. He continued his studies at the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy in the University,researching the thermo-mechanical properties of porous framework materials.
The characterization, properties and applications of amorphous metal-organic frameworks featured prominently in his PhD, awarded in 2012.

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