UC Berkeley’s Omar Yaghi has been awarded the renowned Science for the Future Ernest Solvay Prize by Syensqo. The award honors chemistry leaders whose discoveries are shaping the future of the field and humanity.

Yaghi is being recognized for pioneering reticular materials that can help combat the impacts of climate change, Syensqo announced. The ultra porous materials – known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and covalent organic frameworks (COFs) – are unlocking groundbreaking solutions for threats like water scarcity, air pollution and energy production.

“Omar Yaghi is a true explorer and his work is likely to have a tremendous impact in advancing humanity,” said Ilham Kadri, chief executive officer of Syensqo. “Awarding the Science for the Future prize to a scientist like him is a perfect illustration of our purpose: being explorers that address critical needs by pushing the limits of what can be realized.”

The Science for the Future Ernest Solvay Prize by Syensqo, which comes with a $326,000 award, is intended to shine a light on science and chemistry’s role in tackling urgent global problems. It was previously known as the Solvay Prize. Past recipients like Katalin Karikó, Carolyn Bertozzi and Ben Feringa have won Nobel Prizes after this award.

“It’s an honor to receive this prestigious prize,” said Yaghi, founder of the reticular chemistry field, James and Neeltje Tretter professor of chemistry at the College of Chemistry and co-director and chief scientist of the Bakar Institute of Digital Materials for the Planet (BIDMaP). “I am so thrilled to see our hard work with my great students and postdoctoral fellows being rewarded in this way.”

Yaghi expressed appreciation for Berkeley. He highlighted the “freedom to explore the frontiers” at the College of Chemistry and the interdisciplinary collaborations he’s enjoyed at BIDMaP, which is part of the College of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS). He lauded the rewards that work at both colleges could yield for the public.

“The new chemistry we developed, reticular chemistry, led to the creation of MOFs and COFs, which figure prominently in carbon capture and water harvesting from desert air,” Yaghi said of his efforts at the College of Chemistry. “Our recent joint efforts with colleagues in CDSS to build AI for science through the establishment of BIDMaP will most certainly speed up these discoveries and their implementation in solving climate challenges for the benefit of society.”

The prize is provided by Syensqo, a science company that aims to improve how people live, travel, work and play. The award ceremony will be held March 19 at the Palais des Académies in Brussels.