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National Honour for Chemistry Prof

{Dr. Laurence Thompson}

Advancements in the hi-tech sector have often focused on creating technologies that are faster, smaller and more efficient than those in current use. Some argue that miniaturization, the conventional approach of taking existing technology and making it smaller and smaller, is at its limit. New and innovative ways of increasing capability and decreasing size of items in areas such as the computer industry require visionaries in other fields. Dr. Laurence Thompson, university research professor in the Department of Chemistry, is using his knowledge in the area of inorganic coordination chemistry to shift how these technologies are envisioned and created.

In recognition of his research contributions in last 25 years, Dr. Thompson was honoured with the Alcan Lecture Award for 2004. Dr. Thompson received this prestigious award at the Canadian Society for Chemistry's annual conference, which took place at the University of Western Ontario, in June 2004.

Dr. Thompson's work revolves around a process called supramolecular self-assembly, a process by which larger molecules build themselves. "This is the key to improvements in the high-tech industry," said Dr. Thompson, who has analyzed both the magnetic and electrochemical properties of various compounds using several different metals. "The bottom-up approach, at the molecular level, is relatively new and necessary."

Analysis of the magnetic properties of molecules containing copper and manganese has focused on the unpaired electrons found in the metal ions in a molecule. By placing the molecules in a magnetic field, the electrons act like a compass needle does near metal, and become attracted by the field.

Dr. Thompson's work has focused on simple dinuclear (two metals) to the more complex supranuclear systems, with up to 36 metals. He has created molecules with properties similar to particles on hard drives and floppy disks, and created an analog at the molecular level, which could result in floppy disks and hard dives with far greater storage capacity than is currently possible.

Originally from the UK, Dr. Thompson began teaching at Memorial in 1970. He currently holds two NSERC grants for his work: a Discovery Grant, which assists in research operating costs at $70,000 a year over four years. He also holds a Major Facilities Access Grant that funds a research associate's salary to run the National Magnetic Facility here at Memorial. The primary piece of equipment housed in this facility, the SQUID magnetometer, provides magnetic measurements and analytical service to chemists across Canada.

Dr. Thompson currently has a research team of six members - including undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows - working on his projects.


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