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Message from the Area Representative Kazuhiko Maeda,
Tokyo Institute of Technology

Kazuhiko Maeda

Kazuhiko Maeda

Tokyo Institute of Technology

Research on inorganic materials to date has revolved around the science of cations, as typified by metal oxides, and the science of anions, which has flourished with the study of mixed-anion compounds. The benefits that we, human society, have received from the innovative inorganic materials that have been created as a result of this research are immeasurable. Both cation science and anion science have in common the ability to manipulate atoms (ions), which can be approximated as spheres, to create new crystal structures and compositions that lead to desired physical properties and functions. In this Transformative Research Area, we are aiming to establish new material design principles by defining inorganic materials containing molecular units, in which multiple atoms are covalently bonded, as "supra-ceramics" as a different direction from the conventional research on inorganic ceramics centered on monatomic ions.

Molecular units contained in supra-ceramics have anisotropic properties, which give rise to new degrees of freedom in terms of orientation, arrangement, and dynamic properties. As a result, the creation of various physical properties and functions can be expected. However, research related to supra-ceramics is sporadic, and there are many unknowns in the core areas of materials development: synthesis, analysis and theory, and physical properties and functions. In particular, the collaboration between solid-state and molecular scientists (e.g., solid-state chemistry and coordination chemistry) is essential in the study of supra-ceramics, but the exchange between these researchers is not sufficient at present.

In our "supra-ceramics" research area, we will bring together researchers from different fields to form a three-pillar research system of synthesis, analysis/theory, and properties/functions, and to establish the basic science of materials design for supra-ceramics in collaboration with each researcher. We hope to discover new veins of innovative properties and functions in five-year research, and to create new materials that meet the demands of the general public. We will also produce world-class researchers who will lead the next generation of inorganic materials chemistry in this field.

Our research area is characterized by having researchers in their 30s to mid-40s at the core of the organization to create momentum in research, and experienced mid-career and senior researchers to bring a sense of stability to the organization. I look forward to the many surprising discoveries that will be made as a result of the strong collaboration among all members, from young researchers to senior researchers, who participate in the field, and who put their curiosity first and develop their research to their heart's content. As the representative of this area, I will strive to create an atmosphere in which all members can enjoy their research.

Research abstract

Recent advances and technological innovations related to inorganic materials have changed the conventional concepts of ceramics as hard, brittle, and homogeneous to more flexible and dynamic ones. In such new concepts, some “molecules” within the material always play an important role, leading to achieving innovative applications such as excellent secondary batteries and catalysis.

In this research group, "supra-ceramics" was defined as a class of new materials incorporating molecular units (molecular ions, complexes, clusters, etc.). We will create the supra-ceramics and explore these innovative physical properties and functions through the cross-disciplinary research with a wide range of scientific backgrounds. Through the research, we will revolutionize and transform the academic society of inorganic material science. We classify our target supra-ceramics into two types, "endospheric supra-ceramics" and "exospheric supra-ceramics," depending on the position of molecular units in supra-ceramics.


The endospheric supra-ceramics contain molecular ionic species within the lattice of inorganic crystals. Strong electronic interaction within condensed environments will give new properties and functions that cannot be obtained by conventional materials containing molecular ions. The exospheric supra-ceramics are formed by placing functional molecules at specific locations on the surface of inorganic materials. This concept will create new structures, morphologies, and electronic states that are not present in inorganic materials or molecules on their own. Moreover, perturbations from crystal surfaces or interfaces are employed to modulate physical properties and modify functions, unlike conventional organic-inorganic hybrid materials.

This research project is organized into three groups: (A) synthesis, (B) analysis and theory, and (C) properties and functions of the supra-ceramics. Moreover, each has two different research groups. Group A is responsible for the synthesis of supra-ceramics: A01 develops new synthetic technologies, while A02 works on the controls of structural dimensionality and morphology of supra-ceramics. B01 investigates supra-ceramics by directly observing their forming process and their operation as functional materials, giving rise to new scientific knowledge in material science. B02 plays a role in accelerating the exploration of supra-ceramics by investigating the chemical and electronic states via first-principles calculations and informatics methods. Group C aims to develop new materials by controlling the shape and interface of materials to derive their physical properties and functions. C01 mainly aims to develop new physical properties based on phase control. C02 conducts research targeting photochemical-, electrochemical- and bio-functions generated by the fusion of ceramics and molecules.