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VOICE No. 42


Yusuke Yamauchi

Graduate School of Engineering

My favorite saying: Have an edge! A different point of view leads to unknown possibilities.


Q: Why did you choose this saying?

Generally speaking, people who think differently from others tend to be kept at a distance in Japan. On the contrary, I find people who have an edge to themselves to be interesting, fascinating beings. These types usually have their own point of view instead of sticking to norms or common sense. This increases the odds that they’ll come up with new ideas or discoveries. By doing research alongside them, I’m afforded opportunities to broaden my own perspectives.


Q: What kind of research are you doing?

I am expanding research in synthetic chemistry to create new inorganic nanomaterials. In 2012, we were the first in the world to develop a nanoporous metallic material with countless nanolevel pores (if the diameter of the Earth were one meter, then one yen coin would be one nanometer) using a soft-chemical approach. In another recent study, we successfully synthesized a nanoporous material consisting of five metals, also a world first. Our new nanoporous materials can be tailored to combine different elements and achieve a large surface area with smaller quantities, resulting in higher performance in many applications. Our research is fundamental to synthetic chemistry, which is the foundation of material creation. Therefore, we expect that our findings can be applied to high-performance catalysts, batteries, and many other fields.




 Talking about porous materials




Porous materials as seen through electron microscopy (top three) and by elemental mapping (bottom six)


Q: How did you get into this research?

I have always loved chemistry (maybe because I was better at it than other subjects like Japanese or Social Studies), so I majored in it in college. I wanted to study electrochemistry in graduate school, but things didn’t work out as I hoped. Due to the high number of applicants, I lost the lottery that randomly selected students, and I ended up studying inorganic chemistry instead. When I was a graduate student thinking about my future, I wondered if there was a way to work in the field of chemistry where I could decide what I wanted to study. That’s when I learned that the National Institute for Materials Science was actively recruiting young researchers. I applied and was hired there starting the month after I received my PhD, beginning my career as a research scientist. At that time, I was the youngest tenured researcher at the institute.


Q: What sorts of things make you think that research is interesting or rewarding?

I've loved putting little things together since I was a kid (when I was in elementary school, I loved assembling miniature four-wheel drive cars). Even now, I enjoy working with students and staff to figure out how to efficiently develop new inorganic materials and determine the optimal methods and structures. The field of synthesis methods for inorganic materials still has a lot of room for development. Discovering how to develop unprecedented nanoporous materials and creating their new structures is extremely interesting and fascinating to me. It's truly creative work. The moment when our ideas and discoveries are put into practice is more exciting than anything else.




 Handling equipment for nitrogen gas isotherms


Q: In April 2023, you were appointed as one of the first Takuetsu Professors (Distinguished Professors of Research Excellence) at Nagoya University, a new title and position established by the University with the aim of becoming a world-class research university. What made you choose Nagoya University over the many other universities out there?

I was born and raised in Shizuoka Prefecture, so I’ve been familiar with Nagoya University since my early childhood (although I chose to go to a university in the Tokyo metropolitan area (laughs)). I was attracted to Nagoya University because it offers the perfect environment for promoting top-level research. I was convinced that I would be able to take my research to an even higher level by working as a Takuetsu Professor in particular. I also sincerely appreciate the support offered by the university, including guaranteed salaries comparable to those at universities overseas. I will make every effort to contribute to the university and community through my research.




 At a press conference introducing Nagoya University’s first Takuetsu Professors


Q: Could you tell us how you came up with the idea of porous materials?

The key is whether or not you can seize serendipity. I regularly review experiment notes and raw data with my students. Through this process, I can occasionally come up with new ideas or points of view.


About 15 years ago, while I was looking at a graduate student’s data with them, we discovered a remarkable phenomenon. By simply leaving a metal in solution, nanoporous materials spontaneously formed in the metal. This was a great discovery for us, because it was completely different from the previously known synthetic routes. This discovery led us to further investigate the mechanisms and potential applications of nanoporous materials.


As a result, we were able to pioneer a new field of research. In Japan, people tend to shy away from sharing numerical indicators, but in the West, the number of times a research paper has been cited by others is commonly used as a means of showing its impact. The total number of times my work is cited in a year is more than 10,000. As this number shows, porous materials have become a research field that attracts attention worldwide. I have been fortunate enough to learn from a Nobel laureate, who instructed me to further hone my research abilities. There is still a long road ahead.


Q: How do you spend your days off? What do you do to recharge yourself?

I spend most of my days traveling back and forth between Australia and Japan. Lately, I hardly have any time for myself. I am always working from morning to night. Even on my days off, my focus is on work. But to be honest, I consider my work as one of my pastimes. So, it’s not a bother to me (laughs).


Q: What are your goals and ambitions for the future?

Currently, at Nagoya University, we are working on a major project for the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). The conductive nanoporous materials we developed using synthesis methods we have proposed are garnering a lot of attention in the world of materials chemistry as a second-generation inorganic porous material. Especially, nanoporous metallic materials are inorganic single-crystal structures in which nanoscale metals are crystallized in microscopic spaces and yet also have electrical conductivity. They are far superior to conventional zeolites, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs)/porous coordination polymers (PCPs), and mesoporous silica (known as a first-generation inorganic porous material) in terms of high electrical conductivity, framework crystallinity, and diversity of composition/pore structure. By fusing different materials, new electronic and physicochemical properties may be developed not only in metals but also in our original conductive nanoporous materials. Our research aims to establish a new synthesis platform that can control both the “nanospace” in crystals and the “hybrid space” in which nanospaces are highly integrated.




Name: Yusuke Yamauchi

Department: Graduate School of Engineering, Nagoya University

Title: Professor


Dr. Yusuke Yamauchi graduated from the School of Science and Engineering at Waseda University and completed his PhD at its Graduate School of Science and Engineering in 2007. He then worked as a group leader at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) before becoming a professor at the University of Queensland, Australia in 2017. He was selected as one of the first Nagoya University Takuetsu Professors in April 2023. Due to his busy schedule, he currently has no hobbies (but says he wants to have the time to spend chatting with others over good food).




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