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Royal Society of Chemistry | Press Release | 2202-06-07

A team of scientists from across Europe have been named the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Dalton Division Horizon Prize, celebrating the most exciting chemical science taking place today. Among them is the team of Prof. Rubén Costa, head of the Chair for Biogenic Funcitonal Materials at TUM Campus Straubing.

Based at the Technical University of Munich, Friedrich-Alexander-University, University of Caen and University of Turin, the Cu-Lighting team won the prize for a multidisciplinary approach blending chemistry, engineering and maths to create blue and white copper(l) complex light-emitting electrochemical cells.

A group of scientists standing in a lab.

Prof. Costa and his Team at TUM Campus Straubing. Photo: Jan Winter/TUM

They join a prestigious list of past-winners in the RSC’s prize portfolio, of which 50 individuals have gone on to win Nobel Prizes for their work, including including 2016 Nobel laureates Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Ben Feringa.

The team also receives a trophy, individual certificates, and a multimedia pack showcasing the prize-winning work and its importance.

After receiving the prize, Professor Dr. Ruben D. Costa of the Cu-Lighting team said: “This work represents a truly multidisciplinary approach blending chemistry, engineering and math towards the first blue and white copper (l) complex light-emitting electrochemical cells that were elusive for over 15 years.”

Light-emitting electrochemical cells (LECs) are devices that generate light from an electric current through a phenomenon known as electroluminescence. LECs have a variety of applications and have the potential to undercut organic LEDs by an order of magnitude in cost.

LECs using copper complexes were first created in 2005, and have been of significant interest because copper is a more sustainable alternative to commonly used iridium. However, until now, copper-based LECs emitting blue and white light have been elusive. The Cu-Lighting team successfully synthesised new copper (I) complexes to solve this problem.

The work will impact the materials design industry (inorganic chemistry and materials science) as well as thin-film lighting devices (optoelectronics) and will bring them forward towards soft-lighting applications including in decoration, labelling and medicine.

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

“Some of the most incredible work in chemical science is carried out by teams and collaborations who use their diversity of thought, experience and skills to deliver astonishing results. These synergies are often at the very forefront of expanding our understanding of the world around us, and why our judges have such a difficult job selecting winners for our Horizon Prizes.

“Although we are in the midst of negotiating a particularly turbulent and challenging era, it is important to celebrate successes and advances in understanding as genuine opportunities to improve our lives. The work of the Cu-Lighting collaboration is a fantastic example of why we celebrate great science; and we’re very proud to recognise their contribution today.”

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. In 2019, the organisation announced the biggest overhaul of this portfolio in its history, designed to better reflect modern scientific work and culture.

The Horizon Prizes celebrate the most exciting, contemporary chemical science at the cutting edge of research and innovation. These prizes are for teams or collaborations who are opening up new directions and possibilities in their field, through ground-breaking scientific developments.

For more information about the RSC’s prizes portfolio, visit

About the Royal Society of Chemistry

We are an international organisation connecting chemical scientists with each other, with other scientists, and with society as a whole. Founded in 1841 and based in London, UK, we have an international membership of over 50,000. We use the surplus from our global publishing and knowledge business to give thousands of chemical scientists the support and resources required to make vital advances in chemical knowledge. We develop, recognise and celebrate professional capabilities, and we bring people together to spark new ideas and new partnerships. We support teachers to inspire future generations of scientists, and we speak up to influence the people making decisions that affect us all. We are a catalyst for the chemistry that enriches our world.