11.11.2016 | List of News

Chorafas Prize awarded to Adolphe Merkle Institute graduate

Adolphe Merkle Institute graduate Roberto Vadrucci has been awarded the 2016 Chorafas Prize for the best doctoral thesis in natural sciences at the University of Fribourg. Vadrucci’s thesis “New Organic Materials for Low-Intensity Light Upconversion” reports a groundbreaking study on the development and investigation of new materials that permit transforming low-power light into radiation of higher energy. This mechanism is broadly useful for applications that range from biomedical imaging to solar harvesting technologies. For example, upconverting materials can increase the efficiency of photovoltaic devices by capturing parts of the sunlight that cannot be used by conventional solar cells. The photophysical effect used by Vadrucci was shown to occur in solutions containing special dye combinations some 50 years ago, but it was only recently that the group of Professor Weder, the awardee’s PhD advisor, demonstrated its feasibility in solid polymers, which are much easier to integrate in practical devices than solutions.

During his doctoral studies Vadrucci developed new design concepts for upconverting polymers, synthesized these materials, and investigated their photophysical properties. The highlight of his work is a fundamentally new, exceedingly simple process that affords nanostructured upconverting polymers with world-record efficiency, outstanding mechanical characteristics, and surprisingly good stability. In addition to a patent application that seeks to protect his invention, the laureate’s thesis forms the basis of six peer reviewed publications, all of which were published (or are expected to be published) in leading research journals.


Vadrucci, who joined the AMI with an MS degree in Chemistry from ETH Zurich, is the recipient of a mobility grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation, which supports his current research stay in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge.

The Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation awards scientific prizes for outstanding work in selected fields in the engineering sciences, medicine and the natural sciences. It rewards research characterized by its high potential for practical application and by the special significance attached to its possible future use.  Every year, partner universities in Europe, North America and Asia evaluate the research work of their graduating Ph.D. students and nominate the best for the award. The Foundation awards the prize, worth $5,000, to the best doctoral student(s) in each partner university.

Adolphe Merkle Institute - Chemin des Verdiers 4 - CH-1700 Fribourg - Phone +41 26 300 9254