Seth Darling

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Seth Darling
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Seth B. Darling
CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • Bsc chemistry and astronomy
  • PhD in physical chemistry
Alma mater
  • Haverford College
  • University of Chicago
  • Director of the Center for Molecular Engineering
  • Senior Scientist
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • University of Chicago
Known forWater/Energy Materials
  • R&D 100 Award Winner (2017, 2014)
  • Science Magazine Vizzie Award, 1st place, (2010)
  • Argonne Energy Slam Champion (2014)

Seth B. Darling is the director of the Center of Molecular Engineering, a research and development program focusing on advanced materials for cleaning water, quantum information science, and polymer science.Darling is also a senior scientist at both the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. He also directs the Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS) Center, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center formed in 2018.[1]

Darling has made fundamental contributions to the development of new materials for energy and water, including hybrid materials for polymer and perovskite solar cells and membrane materials for water filtration. He’s co-created material synthesis techniques that are used commercially, including sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS), which is used to create coatings for semiconductor fabrication, optical surfaces, and reusable oil sorbents..[2][3][4][5]

Darling has authored two books on water, energy and climate change and is a member of the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, AVS Science and Technology Society, Materials Research Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).[1]

Career and education

Darling holds a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and astronomy from Haverford College.[1] He completed his postdoctoral studies at Argonne as a Distinguished Glenn Seaborg Fellow before joining the laboratory’s Center for Nanoscale Materials as a staff scientist.[1] Darling was later promoted to director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at Argonne, which was subsequently renamed the Center for Molecular Engineering.[6] In 2018, he became a senior scientist and was named director of the AMEWS Center.[1]

Darling is also the chief technical officer of Visual Molecules LLC, a position he’s held since 2008.[1]

Major research contributions

Solar energy

Darling has analyzed the behavior, commercial viability, scalability, and ecological impacts of photovoltaic technologies.[7][8] This work reveals fundamental mechanisms of their operation and provides guidance on which solar energy technologies are sustainable and economical. Much of this work focused on the structure and properties of organic and hybrid materials.[9][10][11] This includes polymer solar cells and perovskite solar cells.

Water treatment

Darling has helped design and develop membrane materials and fabrication methods that enhance water filtration and clean up.[12] Among other things, he has:

  • utilized the chemistry inspired by mussels to engineer an artificial adhesive that improves the performance of membranes;[13][14][15]
  • created membranes that can resist fouling and others that clean themselves under visible light illumination;[16][17]
  • developed a way to construct Janus membranes, which could optimize or enable their use in wastewater treatment, biofuel fabrication, and other processes;[18] and
  • co-invented the Oleo Sponge, a foam for cleaning up oil that can adsorb up to 90 times its weight in oil.[4][19] Darling received an R&D 100 Award in 2017 for this technology.[20]

Sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS)

Darling co-invented sequential infiltration synthesis (SIS) with Jeffrey Elam. SIS is a material synthesis technique derived from atomic layer deposition (ALD).[21] While ALD alternates chemical vapors to grow materials one atomic layer at a time, in SIS the vapor is diffused into the polymer rather than on top of it.

SIS has been used to create coatings for semiconductor fabrication and has applications in nanolithography (recognized with an R&D100 award in 2014),[22] optical coatings, advanced sorbents, and membranes. SIS was also used to in the development of the Oleo Sponge to engineer a reusable oleophilic material that grabs oil molecules from water to mitigate oil spills.[23][24]

Polymer science and self-assembly

Darling studied the directed self-assembly of polymers and polymer/nanoparticle hybrid systems.[25] He’s investigated ways to tune the nanostructures that form when block copolymers self-assemble, in order to create useful materials for nanotechnologies and other applications.[26] His most cited paper reviews methods to control the self-assembly of block copolymers and their application in microelectronics and other technologies.[25]

Awards and honors

  • Samuel D. Bader Prize for Exceptional Achievement, 2017[27]
  • R&D 100 Award, Gold Special Recognition Award for Green Tech, and Editor’s Choice Award for Mechanical/Materials Research for Oleo Sponge, 2017[20]
  • R&D 100 Award for SIS lithography, 2014[22]
  • Argonne Energy Slam Champion, 2014[28]
  • Science Magazine Vizzie Award, 1st place, 2010[29]

In the media



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Seth B. Darling". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  2. "YouTube". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  3. Its the End of Water as we Know It | Seth Darling | TEDxSavannah, retrieved 2020-06-19
  4. 4.0 4.1 "New Sponge Can Soak Up 90 Times its Own Weight in Oil". WTTW News. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  5. McMahon, Jeff. "Argonne Scientist Urges Next Generation Solar: 'We Have No Choice'". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  6. "Seth Darling named Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering at Argonne | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  7. "Energy& Environmental Science".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. Darling, Seth B.; You, Fengqi; Veselka, Thomas; Velosa, Alfonso (2011-08-26). "Assumptions and the levelized cost of energy for photovoltaics". Energy & Environmental Science. 4 (9): 3133–3139. doi:10.1039/C0EE00698J. ISSN 1754-5706.
  9. Chen, Wei; Nikiforov, Maxim P.; Darling, Seth B. (2012-07-18). "Morphology characterization in organic and hybrid solar cells". Energy & Environmental Science. 5 (8): 8045–8074. doi:10.1039/C2EE22056C. ISSN 1754-5706.
  10. Liao, Hsueh-Chung; Ho, Chun-Chih; Chang, Chun-Yu; Jao, Meng-Huan; Darling, Seth B.; Su, Wei-Fang (2013-09-01). "Additives for morphology control in high-efficiency organic solar cells". Materials Today. 16 (9): 326–336. doi:10.1016/j.mattod.2013.08.013. ISSN 1369-7021.
  11. "The Case for Organic Photovoltaics" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. Lee, Anna; Elam, Jeffrey W.; Darling, Seth B. (2016-01-20). "Membrane materials for water purification: design, development, and application". Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology. 2 (1): 17–42. doi:10.1039/C5EW00159E. ISSN 2053-1419.
  13. Daley, Jason. "Mussels' Sticky Threads Could Inspire Ways to Clean Up Oil Spills, Purify Water and More". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  14. "Could Mussels Teach Us How To Clean Up Oil Spills?". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  15. "Polymer membranes could benefit from taking a dip | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  16. "Sunlight turns membrane into a self-cleaning, pollutant-eating powerhouse | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  17. Lee, Anna; Libera, Joseph A.; Waldman, Ruben Z.; Ahmed, Aftab; Avila, Jason R.; Elam, Jeffrey W.; Darling, Seth B. (2017). "Photocatalysis: Conformal Nitrogen-Doped TiO2 Photocatalytic Coatings for Sunlight-Activated Membranes (Adv. Sustainable Syst. 1-2/2017)". Advanced Sustainable Systems. 1 (1–2). doi:10.1002/adsu201770015. ISSN 2366-7486.
  18. "New material: Two faces offer limitless possibilities". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  19. Geuss, Megan (2017-03-19). "Oleo sponge invented at Argonne National Laboratory can sop up oil in a spill". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Argonne scientists capture several R&D 100 Awards | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  21. "Sequential Infiltration Synthesis For Advanced Lithography" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Argonne wins three R&D 100 awards | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  23. staff, C. N. N. "Our oceans are amazing, but they need our help". CNN. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  24. Ritter, Malcolm. "Scientist tweak seat cushion material to clean up oil spills". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Darling, S. B. (2007-10-01). "Directing the self-assembly of block copolymers". Progress in Polymer Science. 32 (10): 1152–1204. doi:10.1016/j.progpolymsci.2007.05.004. ISSN 0079-6700.
  26. Darling, Seth B. (2009). "Block copolymers for photovoltaics". Energy & Environmental Science. 2 (12): 1266. doi:10.1039/b912086f. ISSN 1754-5692.
  27. "Hla Recognized for Exceptional Achievement at Argonne National Laboratory". Ohio University | College of Arts & Sciences. 2018-03-07. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  28. "Argonne OutLoud: Energy Slam | Argonne National Laboratory". Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  29. "National Science Foundation | Vizzies Visualization Challenge". Retrieved 2020-06-19.

External links

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