SOURCE: SiGNa Chemistry, LLC

September 07, 2005 08:00 ET

SiGNa Chemistry's James L. Dye Announces Another First: The Synthesis of Thermally Stable Electrides

Fifty Years of Singular Focus Yields a Complexant Whose Stability Unlocks the Unique Electronic, Magnetic and Optical Properties of Electrides

NEW YORK, NY -- (MARKET WIRE) -- September 7, 2005 -- More than 50 years ago, James L. Dye, Ph.D., a young physical chemist at Michigan State University, set out to explore and conquer the formidable research area of alkali metals. The metals, inhabiting an unpopular region of highly reactive elements on the periodic table's outer edge, hold valuable properties that are often overlooked due to their dangerous reputation.

Through five decades of patient work, Dr. Dye has produced several successive breakthroughs in the field, culminating in today's announcement that the 78-year-old scientist and his team have reached what the inorganic scientific community has long considered their 'holy grail' -- the synthesis of a room-temperature stable organic electride. These electrides are salts in which the anion, or negatively charged component, is a trapped lone electron devoid of a typically associated elemental nucleus.

"This represents the goal of about 20 years of searching for the right organic complexant, one that can survive the highly reactive conditions next to lone electrons, the world's best reducing agents," Dr. Dye said. "Up to now, we are the only group that has prepared and studied organic electrides as a result of the difficulty of synthesis and the thermal instability of the material. This accomplishment will open up the possibility for much wider studies of organic electrides..."

Thermally stable electrides are important to researchers because they have some of the aspects of a salt, and because the electrons can easily move around, they demonstrate some of the properties of a plasma. While Dr. Dye is cautious about potential applications, he said the stable electrides' properties open up possibilities for uses ranging from new and better materials to detect infrared radiation to complex coolant systems, where waste heat is dissipated by an electron emission layer and converted to electricity, such as those used in space travel. In addition, the new organic complexants may provide more efficient methods for removing heavy metals from polluted water systems.

Dye's paper detailing the electride anion synthesis was published this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). This is his second paper to be published in that prestigious journal this summer. The ostensibly retired professor is a principal at the prominent advanced materials start-up, SiGNa Chemistry. A June paper in JACS announced that SiGNa Chemistry had solved alkali metals tendency to ignite spontaneously, a result that could revolutionize industrial processes. The product, derived from Dr. Dye's lifetime work at MSU, has a number of applications including hydrogen generation, drug manufacturing, petroleum refining and environmental restoration.

"James Dye's depth of scientific wisdom and unparalleled knowledge of alkali metal chemistry has been a tremendous asset for SiGNa Chemistry in developing our core technology," said Michael Lefenfeld, company CEO. "We would not have been able to refine our encapsulated alkali metal product, and bring to market so quickly without his sharp mind and expert guidance. We are forever indebted to him for his service."

For many years Dr. Dye and his team were the only scientists working with alkalides (salts of alkali metal anions) and electrides, primarily because the research was regarded as facing insurmountable obstacles due to their unstable nature, with rapidly decomposing elements. Because of Dye's work, however, the field has now attracted a great deal of interest internationally.

"The general nature of this material proves that while this may be the first time thermally stable organic electrides have been synthesized, it's certainly not the last because there are so many interesting possibilities," Dye said.

After 41 years of distinguished service at MSU Dr. Dye retired in 1994 from his Professorship, which included four years as Department of Chemistry Chair, and was given the title Professor Emeritus that year. He continued to do research, though, working in the NSF-funded lab on the MSU campus. After years of working through computer simulations to show stable electride synthesis was possible, Dr. Dye and his research partners Mikhail Redko, James Jackson, and Rui Huang, as well as a steady stream of post-doctoral students, had to crack through the theoretical wall into the physical world and create the abstract electride. This accomplishment took place in 2004, but the group waited to prove they could produce it in quantity, before publicly announcing the feat.

An illustrious career

Dr. Dye's work has not gone unnoticed. In the past 20 years alone, he has produced 91 research papers in chemistry, and this includes papers which have appeared in what most scientists agree are the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, Science, Nature, and JACS. His work has warranted coverage in The New York Times and numerous other newspapers and publications. During this same period, his research group received more than $3.3 million in research funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U. S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

He is the only chemist in Michigan awarded membership in the National Academy of Science, and was until recently the only MSU professor in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. At age 70 he received the highest award given for Inorganic Chemistry in the U. S., the American Chemical Society National Award in Inorganic Chemistry. He has received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Northern Michigan University, and special annual awards from the University of Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Iowa State University.

At age 63, he was awarded a rare second Guggenheim Fellowship for study and research at Cornell University. The first Guggenheim Fellowship, along with a Fulbright Scholarship, were bestowed at age 48. Of the five distinguished researchers he worked with on Sabbatical leaves, two later received Nobel Prizes. The Minnesota native earned his bachelor's degree at Gustavus Adolphus College in 1949 and his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1953, that year joining the faculty at MSU. He joined SiGNa Chemistry in 2003, supervising R&D and production of its innovative nanoencapsulated alkali metal product.

About SiGNa Chemistry, LLC.

SiGNa Chemistry is an early-stage company developing unique solutions to compelling chemistry problems through the power of interdisciplinary science. SiGNa is positioned to develop and deliver a host of solutions to a wide range of scientific applications and industries. The company's advanced materials will deliver new products to academic and industrial markets as diverse as pharmaceutical synthesis, petroleum refining, organometallics, catalysis, and hydrogen energy. For more information: http://www.signachem.com.

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