University News | October 09, 2018
Selected to be a part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of Japan, Hokkaido University will launch the “Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (ICRD)” in October 2018. The institute aims to undertake research to acquire an in-depth understanding of complex chemical reactions and to accelerate the efficient development of new chemical reactions. The WPI will support the program for ten years, providing seven hundred million yen each year. The center will be directed by Professor Satoshi Maeda from the Faculty of Science.
Finding new chemical reactions is indispensable for generating advanced materials and chemicals as well as reducing energy consumption and environmental burdens. So far, such development requires a trial-and-error approach which tends to be time-consuming, laborious, expensive, and inefficient. The new institute will tackle this issue by integrating the fields of computational science, information science, and experimental science.
One of the key approaches to elucidate “unknown” reaction pathways is the automated reaction path search method termed “artificial force induced reaction (AFIR)” developed by the new center’s director Professor Satoshi Maeda. The AFIR is a novel method used in quantum chemical calculations that applies virtual mechanical forces to reaction systems in search of potential pathways. Calculations can be optimized for complex systems by collaborating with information scientists, and predicted pathways can be tested with experimental scientists. Such interdisciplinary studies are expected to advance current understandings of reaction pathways and networks, leading to the development of innovative products.
The institute aims to build an international research environment with 30% of the researchers from overseas. It has already nominated three internationally renowned scientists from the United States, France, and Germany as Principle Investigators (PIs) as well as eleven from Japan. A research support department will be introduced to allow researchers and students to engage in their research without administrative interruptions. The institute also aims to establish the “MANABIYA” (an old Japanese word for “school”) system to educate young researchers and graduate students and function as a global circulation hub for world-class scientists in the field.
Professor Maeda says “Development of new chemical reactions is entangled with the prosperity of humanity and the preservation of environment. As such development often takes decades, fundamentally new scientific approaches have been much anticipated. We are excited to start new challenges to provide innovative solutions through collaborations.” President Toyoharu Nawa of the university celebrated the launch saying “We have long waited for this moment and I am very proud of our WPI program. I am committed to fully support the project so it realizes its ambitious goals.”