Carl Lineberger Wins NAS Award in Chemical Sciences

Published: 01-22-2015
W. Carl Lineberger

Carl Lineberger has won the 2015 National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences. The award was given for his "development of molecular negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy, and the fundamental insights into molecular electron affinities and intramolecular dynamics derived therefrom." Lineberger is the E. U. Condon Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a Fellow of JILA. The award is presented with a medal and a $15,000 cash prize.

Lineberger developed negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy. Scientists can use this technique to determine the electron affinity of the neutral version of an atom or molecule. Electron affinity—the change in energy that occurs when an electron is added to an atom or molecule—provides important information about atoms and molecules and how they interact in chemical reactions. The "periodic table" of atomic electronic affinities now included in general chemistry textbooks is founded on Lineberger’s early work with negative ion photoelectron spectroscopy. His development of anion photoelectron spectroscopy as a tool to study small molecules has provided both an important method to characterize highly reactive, short-lived species known as free radicals as well as a new, direct way to observe the structure and evolution of molecules in the process of undergoing a chemical reaction. Lineberger’s experimental methods are now in widespread use in laboratories worldwide.

The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences was first awarded in 1979 to Linus Pauling for his studies, which elucidated in structural terms the properties of stable molecules of progressively higher significance to the chemical, geological, and biological sciences. The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences award has continued to recognize some of the greatest chemists in the past few decade as 14 recipients have been honored with a National Medal of Science, and six recipients have received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (Taube 1983; Hoffmann 1981; Brown 1979; Cram 1987; Zewail 1999; Sharpless 2001).

The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences is presented annually to honor innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences was established in 1978 and supported by Occidental Petroleum Corporation from 1978 to 1996. The Merck Company Foundation assumed sponsorship in 1999.