The discovery and creation of new forms of carbon have always transformed the scientific landscape. For example, the discoveries of fullerenes, carbon nanotubes (CNTs), and graphenes have opened doors to the science of nanometer-sized carbon allotropes, otherwise known as nanocarbons. Since then, researchers worldwide have unveiled their outstanding physical and chemical properties, and a number of applications and technologies have arisen in not only materials science but also biological research fields. The synthesis and study of this privileged class of “single-molecule” compounds has become one of the most engaging subjects in chemistry and holds huge promise to establish new fields in molecular science. However, there have been huge gaps between established small-molecule chemistry and nanocarbon science. In the case of CNTs, it is still not possible to access structurally uniform CNTs. Although a wide range of synthetic methods have been reported, CNTs are generally accessed as a mixture of various structures. One logical strategy to achieve full synthetic control over CNTs is to build up from a template molecule with structural precision (the so-called “growth-from-template” strategy), where a short CNT segment molecule represents an initial synthetic target. To this end, organic synthesis techniques are our most powerful tools to synthesize short CNT segments such as carbon nanorings and carbon nanobelts. This lecture will highlight our 18-year campaign in the synthesis and application of carbon nanorings and carbon nanobelts.
Kenichiro Itami (b. 1971) studied chemistry at Kyoto University, Japan, and completed his PhD in 1998 with Prof. Yoshihiko Ito. After being Assistant Professor at Kyoto University, he moved to Nagoya University as an Associate Professor in 2005, where he was promoted to Full Professor in 2008. In 2012 he created the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) in Nagoya University, serving as the principal investigator (also the founding director until March 2022). During 2013-2020, he was the Research Director of JST-ERATO Itami Molecular Nanocarbon Project. Since 2019, he has also been the Research Fellow at the Institute of Chemistry, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. The work of Ken Itami has centered on catalyst-enabling synthetic chemistry with broad directions including molecular nanocarbon materials, C-H activation catalysts, medicinal chemistry, and chemical biology. The representative achievement is the creation of a range of structurally uniform nanocarbons of fundamental and practical importance by bottom-up chemical synthesis. Noteworthy achievements include: (1) the development of new reactions and catalysts for the rapid and programmable synthesis of nanocarbon molecules (Nature Commun. 2022, Nature Commun. 2021, Nature Catal. 2020, Science 2018, Nature Commun. 2015); (2) the synthesis of ultra-short carbon nanotubes such as carbon nanobelts and carbon nanorings (Nature Commun. 2022, Nature Chem. 2021, Science 2017, Nature Chem. 2013); and (3) the synthesis of topologically unique nanocarbons such as warped nanographenes, carbon nanocages, all-benzene catenanes, trefoil knots, and infinitene (Nature Synth. 2022, JACS 2022, Science 2019, Nature Chem. 2013). Ken Itami received more than 40 awards and honors such as the Netherlands Scholar Award for Supramolecular Chemistry (2018), the Guthikonda Lecturer, Stanford University (2018), ICI Distinguished Lecturer, University of Calgary (2017), Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society (2015), and Swiss Chemical Society Lectureship Award (2015). He is recognized as Highly Cited Researchers (Clarivate Analytics) 5 years in a row since 2017, with an h-index of 84.