Belgium Awards Major Science Prize to UA's Jean-Luc Bredas

Rene Siqueiros
Sept. 11, 2000

University of Arizona Chemistry Professor Jean-Luc Bredas, renowned internationally for his research on the electronic and optical properties of conjugated polymers, has been honored with an award from the Belgium National Fund for Scientific Research.

The accolade, presented by an international jury every five years, includes a $70,000 prize, and is awarded to two science professors in both the Dutch- and French-speaking sides of the Belgium university system.

Bredas qualified for the award since he was still teaching at the University of Mons in Belgium before he came to the UA last year.

According to Bredas, there is no prerequisite age or citizenship in order to be considered for the award. The nominee, however, must be a professor at a Belgium university.

"I was competing with people with much longer careers than me, so I guess I wasn't expecting too much on receiving the award," Bredas said. " So it was a really big surprise when I was informed in April that I would be getting it."

Bredas will officially receive the award before King Albert II on Sept. 26 at the "Palais des Academies" in Belgium. A day before the award ceremony, Bredas will discuss his research at a press conference.

Much of Bredas' work focuses on the use of computational chemistry to design novel organic materials for electronics and photonics. At UA, he works closely with Seth Marder and Joseph Perry, also of the chemistry department, at the Optical Materials and Technology lab. The main compounds they are interested in, Bredas said, are novel types of plastics that have specific electrical or optical properties.

"For instance, if you drive an electrical current into a layer of such plastics, the current can be transformed into emission of light . . . so you transform electricity into light and can use this process in new generations of displays," he said.

Because of the immense versatility and mechanical flexibility of plastics, Bredas is confident that the technological possibilities of the compounds are endless.

"In the future, you could have a small display in a pen, and you push a button and the display comes out and you watch your TV program out of that. That's the kind of thing you can do with plastics that you would never be able to do with the conventional inorganic compounds," Bredas said.

Bredas will leave for Belgium on Sept. 22, for a week, to receive his prize.

It will not be the first time that he has received an award in the presence of King Albert II. In 1997, Bredas won the Francqui Prize, considered the highest and most prestigious scientific award in Belgium, which also was presented to him by the King.

In May, Bredas also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Linkoping in Sweden for his work on conjugated polymers.

"All [of the awards] are something that's amazing. As always, there is one person who is designated as the one who receives the award, but it's also something that for me is really important in terms of recognition because of the work that my students and my researchers have done together with me. There is one person who receives the award, but the recognition goes well beyond a single person," Bredas said.

If you are interested in finding out more about Bredas' research, you can visit his profile on the UA Web site at


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