A UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and three alumni were among this year’s class of MacArthur Fellows, recipients of the achievement award commonly known as the “genius grant.”
Peidong Yang, 44, an inorganic chemist and campus professor of chemistry and energy, was recognized for his work in nanoscale materials, which has seen commercial applications in devices that convert waste heat from car exhaust into electricity. Yang and the 23 other members of this year’s class will receive a $625,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation with no strings attached.
The UC Berkeley alumni among the MacArthur fellows — John Novembre, Patrick Awuah and William Dichtel — along with Gary Cohen, who previously studied at UC Berkeley, have contributed to fields ranging from educational entrepreneurship to computational biology and environmental health.
Yang and his collaborators have previously created a synthetic leaf-like device capable of artificial photosynthesis. Utilizing the same components as the natural process — water, sunlight and carbon dioxide — the device produces fuels like methane and butane with oxygen as a byproduct, and in future years could see wide-scale commercial application.