Exploration Master Classes 003 | Professor Ben Zhong Tang

TitleExploration beyond Molecules

Speaker: Prof. Ben Zhong Tang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Time: 19:00, 19 August 2022 (UTC/GMT +8, Beijing Time)

Host: Prof. Xing-Jie Liang & Prof. Bingyang Shi

Prof. Ben Zhong Tang


To understand the nature, scientists have viewed the world from different angles and built various research frameworks according to the level of inquiry, e.g., macro and micro sciences for studying bulk substances and molecular species, respectively. A philosophical linkage here is the reductionism conjecture, assuming that the former (i.e., a bulk substance) is reducible to the latter (i.e., simpler molecules). The reductionism approach has harvested great success but does not always work well. For example, when molecules are aggregated, the aggregate may show totally different behaviors or properties from its molecular constituents. Some luminogens, for instance, do not emit light upon UV excitation as molecular species, but their aggregates luminescence efficiently. This photophysical effect is known as aggregation-induced emission, which manifests that a new property can emerge at aggregate level. In contrast to reductionism, properties of an aggregate are not necessarily a simple, linear addition of those of its molecular components, but affected in a convoluted fashion by different factors, such as quantity (number of constituents), geometry (size, shape and dimension), morphology (amorphous or crystalline) and interaction (attraction or repulsion). Decipherment of such a complex system calls for the development of aggregate science, a new scientific framework for aggregate study. Understanding the operations and interplays of antagonism, synergism, emergentism, multiplicity, etc. in an aggregate system is of great scientific value and has far-reaching technological implications. The study of aggregate science will generate new laws, rules, models, hypotheses, diagrams, etc. and create new knowledge to boost our comprehension of natural processes and to solve the issues and problems unsolvable by the traditional reductionism approach. The establishment of new fundamental principles and working mechanisms at nanoscale and beyond will enable rational design of novel aggregate systems and judicious development of new advanced materials. It is envisioned that the aggregate science will lead to a paradigm shift in research epistemology and methodology and open up new avenues for exploration and innovation at higher levels of structural hierarchy and system complexity.

  1. Tang, B. Z. Aggregate 2020, 1, 4.
  2. Liu, B.; Tang, B. Z. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 9788.
  3. Zhao, Z.; Zhang, H.; Lam, J. W. Y.; Tang, B. Z. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 9888.
  4. Zhang, H.; Zhao, Z.; Turley, A. T.; Tang, B. Z. et al., Adv. Mater. 2020, 32, 2001457.


Prof. Tang received his BS and PhD degrees from South China University of Technology and Kyoto University in 1982 and 1988, respectively. He conducted his postdoctoral work at University of Toronto and worked as a senior scientist in Neos Co., Ltd. in 1989-1994. He joined the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 1994 and was promoted to Chair Professor in 2008. In 2021, he joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen (CUHK-Shenzhen) as Dean of School of Science and Engineering, with the concurrent appointment of X.Q. Deng Presidential Chair Professor.

Prof. Tang has published more than 1,700 scientific papers, which have been cited by peers over 142,000 times. His h-index is 169. He is the principal investigator for 80 research proposals. He has been invited to deliver talks at international conferences for more than 500 times, and has more than 100 patents. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Aggregate.He is sitting in the editorial board of many international scientific journals.

Mainly engaged in materials science, macromolecular chemistry, and biomedical theranostics, especially in the field of chemistry and materials in the field of Aggregation-Induced Emission (AIE). He is the originator of AIE concept and the leader of AIE research. His lab is spearheading the scientific research on aggregation-induced emission.

He received a series of awards, scholarships and honors including “Distinguished Young Scholar Award by National Science Foundation of China (Class B, for Overseas Scientists of Chinese Origin, 2002), Croucher Senior Research Fellowship Award (2007), State Natural Science Award (2007, 2nd Class, Chinese Government), Feng Xinde Polymer Prize (2007, Elsevier), Wang Baoren Award for Accomplishments in Fundamental Polymer Research (2007, Chinese Chemical Society, Macro 2012 Lecture Award, Division of Polymeric Materials: Science & Engineering (2012, American Chemical Society), Khwarizmi International Award (2014, Ministry of Science and Technology, Iranian Research organization for Science and Technology), and Honorary Citizen of the City of Guangzhou (2015). He has been elected “high cited scientist” in the world for 2014-2021 consecutive years in the field of materials and chemistry. Prof. Tang is awarded the 2017 Prize for Scientific and Technological Progress of Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation, and then completed the first prize of National Natural Science in 2017 with the project of “Aggregation-induced Emission”, and Science and Technology Festival – CCTV2018 scientific and technological innovation figures. He is also awarded the Nano Today Award 2021. In 2016, AIE nanoparticles were listed as one of the four nanomaterials to support the coming nanoscale revolution, and the only new material originate from Chinese scientists. In the same year, the American CNBC television station interviewed Prof. Tang to introduce the AIE fluorescent probe into the world with the theme of “Year of Cancer”. The research on pure organic room temperature phosphorescent materials derived from AIE and the use of AIE nanoparticles for photoacoustic imaging have been listed by the “Research Frontiers 2020” as a key hotspot in the field of chemistry and materials and one of the six emerging fronts. In October 2020, AIE was selected as one of the 10 emerging technologies by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

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