Author Profile: Ben Zhong Tang

Ben Zhong Tang talks about his research into materials with aggregation-induced emission

Ben Zhong Tang1. Which research projects are you working on at the moment?
We are currently focusing our research efforts on aggregation-induced emission (AIE), an unusual photophysical process in which light emission of organic luminogens is induced by aggregate formation. We are now working on the synthesis of new AIE molecules, decipherment of AIE mechanisms, and exploration of high-tech applications of the AIE materials.

2. What motivated you to focus on luminescent organic materials?
Luminescent processes of organic luminophores have traditionally been studied as isolated molecules in dilute solutions in academic laboratories but practically used in aqueous media or solid state for real-world applications where the luminophoric molecules tend to form aggregates. The conventional luminescent materials often show poor performances in the solid state due to the notorious aggregation-caused quenching (ACQ) effect. The AIE effect is exactly opposite to the ACQ effect, which provides us a nice platform to study practically useful solid emitters. The discovery of the new AIE phenomenon has motivated us to develop new mechanistic models for luminescent processes in the condense phase and new luminescent materials for real-life applications in the solid state.

3. What are the hot topics in materials chemistry at the moment?
Generation of new photoactive materials and understanding of interplays of light with such materials at molecular and supramolecular levels.

4. What current problem would you like to see science provide a solution to?
Energy shortage, environmental protection, and life quality.

5. What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Discovery of unexpected natural phenomena and growth of young researchers, especially my own PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

6. What’s the secret to being a successful scientist?
Passion and persistence. Love what you do. Take a systematic approach to a tough problem.

7. Which scientist past or present do you most admire?
Theodor Förster, whose discoveries of important photophysical processes still exert great impact on today’s photoluminescence research.

8. If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?
Probably an artist.

You can find out more about Ben Zhong Tang’s research in these recent papers or the group website:

  1. Aggregation-induced emission: Yuning Hong, Jacky W. Y. Lam and Ben Zhong Tang, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2011, 40, 5361-5388
  2. Click polymerization: Anjun Qin, Jacky W. Y. Lam and Ben Zhong Tang, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2010, 39, 2522-2544
  3. Fluorescent bio/chemosensors based on silole and tetraphenylethene luminogens with aggregation-induced emission feature: Ming Wang, Guanxin Zhang, Deqing Zhang, Daoben Zhu and Ben Zhong Tang, J. Mater. Chem., 2010, 20, 1858-1867
  4. Aggregation-induced emission: phenomenon, mechanism and applications: Yuning Hong, Jacky W. Y. Lam and Ben Zhong Tang, Chem. Commun., 2009, 4332-4353,  

Ben Zhong Tang is a chair professor of chemistry at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). He received his B.S. degree from South China University of Technology and Ph.D. degree from Kyoto University. He conducted postdoctoral research at University of Toronto. He joined the Department of Chemistry of HKUST as an assistant professor in July 1994 and was promoted to chair professor in 2008. He was elected to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2009. He received a Natural Science Award from the Chinese Government and a Senior Research Fellowship Award from the Croucher Foundation in 2007. He is currently serving as editor-in-chief of Royal Society of Chemistry Polymer Chemistry Series and editor of Polymer Bulletin.

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