UB professor ranked one of the world’s top innovators
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Technology Review Magazinenamed a UB professor as one of the world’s top innovators under the age of 35.
Sarbajit Banerjee, an assistant professor of chemistry, was included in MIT Magazine’s “TR35” for his technological innovations – specifically for his research in developing vanadium-oxide nanomaterials.
Banerjee is among 35 recipients of the award. Past recipients include Facebook Co-Founder Mark Zuckerburg, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Apple, Inc. Chief Designer Jonathan Ive.
While Banerjee acknowledges the award as an honor, he regards working with his students as one of his greatest accomplishments.
“I’m usually more proud of my students’ awards than my own,” he said.
It took Banerjee years of research to finish his most recent innovation. He developed vanadium-oxide nanomaterials to go inside window coatings to block out infrared radiation from the sun on hot days.
Banerjee said this form of energy replacement could cut down air conditioner costs. His innovation will be useful in the winter, too, when the coating becomes transparent and allows warm rays into the room.
“He’s a rising star, someone we want to keep at the university,” said Alexander Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development. “He’s the type of faculty we are looking for.”
Banerjee specializes in materials chemistry and nanoscale electronics at UB. He also works in research areas of analytical chemistry and inorganic chemistry.
Banerjee focuses on technological innovations that are practical and functional. He researches common items, such as computer chips, and works on developing materials like coatings to prevent rusting. If perfected, the coating can be used on consumer products like motor vehicles.
“He’s always thinking about how the material he is developing can be applied commercially,” Cartwright said.
In 2004, Banerjee received his Ph.D. in chemistry from SUNY Stony Brook and went on to complete his postdoctoral research at Columbia University in 2007. That year, he was hired at UB as an assistant professor of chemistry.
His career path into chemistry has been straightforward from the beginning; he knew he wanted to be a scientist in high school.
Despite his young age, Banerjee’s coworkers value his knowledge and passion for scientific research.
Banerjee can add the TR35 to his long list of awards. In 2011, he won the UB Exceptional Scholars-Young Investigator Award; in 2010, he won the Cottrell Scholar Award; in 2009, he won the National Science Foundation Career award; as well as many other awards in previous years.
“What distinguishes this award from a lot of other scientific awards is that this recognizes scientific achievement that has the potential to change the world,” Banerjee said.
The award also brings recognition to the science programs at UB.
Banerjee’s most recent innovation with vanadium oxide has garnered interest worldwide and has even brought him into the early stages of forming business deals, the details of which he couldn’t disclose to The Spectrum.
Banerjee said the vanadium oxide could develop a new type of energy that could support structures of the future and therefore has a global appeal. His work with grapheme, which is one of the strongest materials known to man, as well as one of the most conductive, has great potential.
“We are researching how grapheme interfaces with other materials.” Banerjee said. “Using grapheme to come up with some interesting coatings to prevent rust formation.”
While he is currently being recognized for being less than 35 years old as an accomplished innovator, Banerjee has always been impressive to his colleagues.
“When I first met him during the interview process, I thought he was someone who was incredibly sure in his scientific theory,” Cartwright said. “His breadth of knowledge and understanding of the field was impressive even at that time.”
One of Banerjee’s many goals for the future is to develop a room temperature superconductor, a task many innovators want to accomplish.
Banerjee sees this award as “recognition of the trajectory of this university and where it is headed, as well as a recognition of the students who go here.”