Mircea Dincă

2021 National Award Winner — Faculty

Mircea Dincă

Current Position:
W.M. Keck Professor of Energy and Professor of Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Inorganic & Solid-State Chemistry

Recognized for:

Most materials that conduct electricity are densely packed metals. Inorganic chemist Mircea Dincă, PhD, has proven that certain porous materials—metal-organic frameworks (or MOFs)—can also conduct electricity and be used in fuel cells and supercapacitors, which play critical roles in green technology systems. Taking inspiration from how individual molecules can conduct electricity, Dincă achieved a conducting MOF by weaving a network of conducting molecules into a porous solid. Dincă has operated his MOFs as supercapacitors and can retain performance after repeated use, an essential property for their use in commercial products. Dincă is partnering with Lamborghini to incorporate MOFs for energy storage in future electric supercars.

Mircea Dincă

Areas of Research Interest and Expertise: Materials Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Energy Storage and Conversion, Catalysis

Previous Positions:

Associate Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
BA, Princeton University

Research Summary:

Mircea Dincă, PhD, has discovered ways to make certain porous materials, known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, highly conductive, unlocking a multitude of new applications in sustainability, from gas and vapor sensing to energy conversion and storage. MOFs are sponges on the nanoscale: ordered networks of metal atoms, strands of organic (carbon-based) molecules, and empty space. Most MOFs are insulating because, unlike conventional metals like copper, they lack charges that can carry electric current and their metal atoms are too sparsely-arranged for charges to move freely. Dincă has revolutionized this field by building MOFs out of specific organic molecules that can both form charges and conduct electricity, thereby linking the metal atoms together to create a solid that is both porous and conducting. This marriage of porosity and conductivity has long been sought after for its potential use in environmental sensors, batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors.

To accelerate the development of application-ready materials, Dincă has expanded our fundamental understanding of conductive MOFs by developing new synthesis methods and achieving precise measurement of their atomic structure. He is now taking MOFs towards commercial applications and has created a MOF-based supercapacitor, a high-power energy storage device, that maintains high performance after repeated use. He has even partnered with Lamborghini to use supercapacitors to power future high-performance vehicles. Dincă has also co-founded Transaera, a start-up company building MOF-based air-cooling devices that consume less than half the energy of conventional air conditioners.

"What cool, new materials would I find if I could manipulate solids at the molecular level? Having a job asking curiosity-driven questions is a privilege; the Blavatnik Award is wonderful reassurance that curiosity-driven work is still important in our metric-driven culture."

Key Publications:

  1. D. Sheberla, L. Sun, M.A. Blood-Forsythe, S. Er, C.R. Wade, C.K. Brozek, A. Aspuru-Guzik, M. Dincă. High Electrical Conductivity of Ni3 (2,3,6,7,10,11-hexaiminotriphenylene)2, a Semiconducting Metal-Organic Graphene Analogue. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2014.

  2. D. Sheberla, J.C. Bachman, J.S. Elias, C.-J. Sun, Y. Shao-Horn, M. Dincă. Conductive MOF electrodes for stable supercapacitors with high areal capacitance. Nature Materials, 2016.

  3. G. Skorupskii, B.A. Trump, T.W. Kasel, C.M. Brown, C.H. Hendon, M. Dincă. Efficient and tunable one-dimensional charge transport in layered lanthanide metal-organic frameworks. Nature Chemistry, 2020.

  4. J.-H. Dou, M.Q. Arguilla, Y.Luo, J. Li, W. Zhang, L. Sun, J.L. Mancuso, L. Yang, T. Chen, L.R. Parent, G. Skorupskii, N.J. Libretto, C. Sun, M.C. Yang, P.V. Dip, E.J. Brignole, J.T. Miller, J. Kong, C.H. Hendon, J. Sun, M. Dincă. Atomically precise single-crystal structures of electrically conducting 2D metal-organic frameworks. Nature Materials, 2020.

Other Honors:

2018 Blavatnik National Awards Finalist, Blavatnik Family Foundation
2018 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, American Chemical Society
2018 Alan T. Waterman Award, National Science Foundation
2016 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation
2015 ExxonMobil Faculty Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry, American Chemical Society
2015 CAREER Award, US National Science Foundation
2014 Cottrell Scholar Award, Research Corporation for Science Advancement
2014 Sloan Research Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
2013 Dreyfus Fellowship in Environmental Chemistry, The Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation
2011 Young Investigator Award, US Department of Energy

In the Media:

Energy Futures – Fine-tuning new materials for energy devices

Climate Control News Technology to tackle the cooling crisis

Boston Business Journal Lamborghini CEO talks MIT, a new patent and a lifelong love of the Celtics

Plastics Today Lamborghini joins forces with MIT to develop concept electric supercar with self-healing carbon fiber structure

Engineer Live Meet a future supercar, with supercapacitors

C&E News Thirsty MOF sucks more water from air

Chemistry World MOFs offer safer toxic gas storage

Digital Trends – Cool new glass technology will darken a room automatically

Chemistry World – MOF sensor sniffs out ammonia