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Scientist Profile: Making new materials: a chemist's playbook

"Most of my research work is motivated by trying to understand properties and phenomena in materials from a chemists perspective, says Sukumaran Vasudevan, Professor at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science. He has spent more than three decades at the Institute looking at the interaction and possible application of a guest molecule in a layered host material leading to new class of materials. For his notable research in the field of physical chemistry, he was recently awarded the IISc Alumni Award for Excellence in Science (2014) in April 2015 by the Institute.

"It is always nice to be recognized by your peers and the Institute", says Prof Vasudevan, on receiving the honour.

After obtaining a BSc and MSc degree from University of Delhi Prof. Vasudevan obtained his PhD from IIT Kanpur under the supervision of Prof C.N.R. Rao. After three years of post doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge, he joined the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, IISc. He is also an associate faculty at Solid State and Structural Chemistry Unit and currently the Chairman of the NMR Research Centre at IISc. He has numerous publications in several highly acclaimed international journals. He is a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Science Academy and a recipient of Bronze Medal of the Chemical Research Society of India.

Prof. Vasudevan's research focuses on studies of 'Guest molecules in Layered and Porous Solids '. More specifically he looks at the physical chemistry aspect of layered, porous and nano-structured host lattices integrated with interesting guest molecules. Such an integration of guest molecule with a layered material leads to novel phenomena and interesting new materials. He studies the interaction and change in properties between host and guest molecules experimentally by using spectroscopic and microscopic studies. Theoretically he does molecular dynamic simulation to help in better understanding of the system. "His research is characterized by rich diversity both in terms of the materials he makes, the studies he carries out, and the applications he targets", says Prof. A. G. Samuelson, one of his peers at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, IISc.

An interesting outcome of his research is a fast and cost effective way of purifying water. This is done by attaching a compound called cyclodextrin to magnetic nano particles. The cyclodextrin cavities capture organic or inorganic contaminants present in water. A simple magnet can separate the magnetic nano particle along with the toxic cargo, thus making water clean. The contaminants can be removed from the cyclodextrine functionalized magnetic particles easily making the particles reusable. The same technique can be used to remove other harmful contaminants like Arsenic, pesticides, insecticide etc. "We have developed a reusable, capture and destroy nanoparticle for water purification", says Prof. Vasudevan.

"He [Prof. Vasudevan] has shown that a combination of physical chemistry techniques and insight into inorganic solids can lead to solutions ranging all the way from drug-delivery to water remediation. What impresses me most is the nature of the problem that is often addressed and the approach taken by Prof. Vasudevan to solve it. His solutions are characterized by elegance and creativity rather than brute force!", says Prof. A. G. Samuelson.



Prof S Vasudevan