A leading polymer chemist currently at Monash University has been awarded the 2013 Le Fèvre Memorial Prize by the Australian Academy of Science – the prize is in response to the researcher’s incredible work in the growing field of ‘molecular engineering’.

Professor Sébastien Perrier won the prestigious prize for his work using macromolecular chemistry to create nano-structured materials.

Professor Perrier’s research focuses on harnessing chemical synthesis to generate large molecules that can form various materials and structures on a nano-scale.

Professor Perrier says his research is like ‘molecular Lego’.

“I use chemical reactions to precisely assemble molecules into materials, thus controlling the overall material properties from the molecular level,” he said.

Perrier's mind-boggling polymer research aims to consider the environmental and social impacts of both the materials and the chemical processes by which they are prepared, including sustainable processes for the synthesis of polymers and 'green' materials with a low impact on the environment.

“This approach of 'molecular engineering' gives access to new materials, exhibiting unique properties. For instance, we have designed nanotubes, tubular structures on the nanometre scale, with a wide range of applications, from membranes, for instance for the purification of water, to therapeutic uses, for the development of new drug systems.”

Professor Perrier has made big contributions to various polymerisation techniques, such as 'living radical polymerisation'; one of the most versatile means to make nano-structured materials with tailored properties for research and industrial applications.

The work so far on nano-structured materials has had a profound impact on a variety of industrial products, with applications ranging from personal care to paint.

The R.J.W. Le Fèvre Memorial Prize commemorates the work of the late Professor R.J.W. Le Fèvre, FAA, FRS and recognises outstanding research in chemistry by scientists under 40 years of age.