The UNESCO-Russia Mendeleev International Prize for Basic Sciences goes to Professor Vincenzo Balzani of the University of Bologna

vincenzo balzaniThe Prize was awarded in recognition of the achievements in the Chemical Sciences and for its commitment to promoting international collaboration, scientific culture and the need for sustainable development. Vincenzo Balzani was elected a member of the Accademia dei XL in 1994. He is also a member of the Accademia dei Lincei and in 2019 he was appointed Knight of the Grand Cross of the Italian Republic for scientific merits. With his activity he contributed to the development of important branches of Chemistry, including Photochemistry, Supramolecular Chemistry and Molecular Nanotechnology. In the seventies of the last century, with a work on Science, he was one of the first researchers to propose the production of hydrogen by splitting water with sunlight, a research area that is still very topical today.

About ten years later he became interested in the action of light on systems consisting of two or more molecular components (supramolecular photochemistry), demonstrating that energy or electron transfer processes can be activated between the various components to create a variety of nanometric level (wires, switches, connections, antennas, encoders / decoders, logic gates) with applications in the field of solar energy conversion and the design of luminescent probes and electroluminescent materials. He was also among the first to highlight that the action of light on supramolecular systems can cause structural changes; subsequently, he designed supramolecular systems in which these structural changes materialize in mechanical movements, similar to those that can be observed in “machines” of the macroscopic world: molecular lift, piston-cylinder systems, rotating rings, etc. This research has been the subject of numerous scientific publications and two texts entitled Molecular Devices and Machines which have led many researchers to develop this new branch of chemistry.

Balzani has established fruitful scientific collaborations with scientists from many countries and his group has trained very valid researchers from Italy and other countries, as evidenced by the Award for Mentoring in Science awarded by the journal Nature. He has presented lectures at universities and at scientific congresses all over the world; with his numerous publications by him, cited more than 65,000 times in the scientific literature, he is one of the best known chemists. He is also the author or co-author of about fifteen books including popular texts on the topics of energy and the environment and scientific texts in English, also translated into Chinese, Japanese and Russian and adopted in universities in many countries.

He has always combined intense activity in the social field with scientific research, focusing on the relationships between science and politics, science and society and science and peace, with particular reference to the issues of energy, resources and climate change. Each year he holds about 50 seminars and lectures in schools to illustrate the problems of ecological and social sustainability.

(October 2021)