Geoffrey W. Coates

Cornell University

Election Year: 2017
Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member


Geoffrey W. Coates is a chemist known for his work on the development of new catalysts for the synthesis of small molecules and polymers. He is known particularly for his research on the development of sustainable materials. Following a BA degree in chemistry from Wabash College in 1989, Coates received a PhD in organic chemistry with Robert Waymouth at Stanford University in 1994, and was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Robert Grubbs at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Cornell University faculty in 1997, where he is now the Tisch University Professor. Professor Coates has received many awards, including the A. C. Cope Scholar Award, ACS Awards in Affordable Green Chemistry and Applied Polymer Science, and the Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award. In 2011 he was identified by Thomson Reuters as one of the world’s top 100 chemists on the basis of the impact of his scientific research. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. He is a scientific cofounder of the companies Novomer and Ecolectro, and is an Associate Editor of Macromolecules.

Research Interests

The research focus of the Coates laboratory is the development of new catalysts for the synthesis of macromolecules as well as fine chemicals. Coates’ research centers on developing new methods for reacting commodity feedstocks (such as alkenes, epoxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide) in unprecedented ways. Current research focuses on four primary themes, the first of which is the development of homogeneous catalysts for olefin polymerization, heterocycle carbonylation, epoxide homo- and copolymerization, and the utilization of carbon dioxide in polymer synthesis. The second area of interest is the utilization of naturally occurring building blocks such as terpenes, saccharides, and plant-based oils for the synthesis of biodegradable polymers. A third focus area is polymer electrolytes for energy storage (batteries, supercapacitors) as well as energy conversion (hydroxide exchange fuel cells). The fourth area of investigation is the development of materials that allow more efficient recycling of commodity plastics, and promote improved properties of current commercial polymers.

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