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March 7, 2018 at 11:51 am

Hla Recognized for Exceptional Achievement at Argonne National Laboratory

OHIO professor Dr. Saw Wai-Hla (right) was awarded the Samuel D. Bader Prize by the Argonne National Laboratory. Group photo

OHIO professor Dr. Saw Wai-Hla (right) was awarded the Samuel D. Bader Prize by the Argonne National Laboratory.

By Amanda Biederman
NQPI editorial intern

Dr. Saw-Wai Hla was awarded the 2017 Samuel D. Bader Prize for Exceptional Achievement from the Nanoscience and Technology division of Argonne National Laboratory.

“Dr. Saw Hla has been instrumental in establishing the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne as a (Department of Energy) leading facility for molecular machines and atomic manipulation,” the award committee wrote in a letter. “His recent research results have bridged the gap between artificial molecular motors and biological molecular motors that govern many important processes in our body.”

Hla, Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Ohio University, is also a member of OHIO’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute.

The award recognizes Nanoscience and Technology division staff members who have made significant contributions to nanoscience and technology. Hla was selected for this award based on his research involving the synchronization of molecular motors. Additionally among his achievements was his work to establish a scanning tunneling microscopy lab at Argonne.

Hla, who joined Argonne as a group leader in 2011, was the first person to negotiate a half-time appointment with the institution as an out-of-state researcher. Hla’s connection with Argonne has afforded many of his students the opportunity to work in a national laboratory setting.

Hla began working with molecular motors in collaboration with two research groups in Toulouse, France in 2009. These tiny motors, which consist of a synthetic rotor stabilized by a molecular tripod, spin when exposed to the electric field generated by a scanning tunneling microscope tip. This technology was used in the design of OHIO’s BobCat NanoWagon, which won the silver medal at the NanoCar Race in Toulouse last April. Hla competed in collaboration with Chemistry & Biochemistry professor and NQPI member Dr. Eric Masson.

Although Hla’s motors reflect novel developments in nanotechnology, he noted that they are inspired by systems that have existed since the early days of life on Earth. Molecular motors are an essential component of biological systems. They drive numerous processes, such as the generation of ATP as well as DNA repair. Hla’s motors, which are smaller and designed to work on a solid substrate, can be used in the production of small electronics such as the iPhone.

“Molecular machines are popular now, but they have been with us for billions of years,” Hla said. “We have molecular machines in our bodies, which means that it existed longer than us … We call this a classical concept. The molecular machines that we are focusing on are different. Because of their nanometer sizes, they are in the quantum regime and little is known about how charge and energy transfer are taken place in these quantum machines.”

As a Samuel D. Bader Prize recipient, Hla received a plaque and a $1000 monetary prize. He shares the honor with Dr. Seth Darling, the director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at Argonne.

Read more about Hla’s work on synchronized molecular motors here.

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