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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Christopher Cummins, 33

MIT

The search for as-yet-unknown reactions--and the accompanying technological potential--is an unending pursuit of inorganic chemistry. Despite years of exploration, there’s plenty left to be discovered, a fact that Kit Cummins quickly points out.

Cummins, an assistant professor of chemistry at 27 and professor by 30, has already forged a world reputation for keen intuition and a deft touch in exploring new chemical ground. His most notable success: finding a way, at room temperature and pressure, to break apart the extremely strong triple bond that holds the atoms of a nitrogen molecule together. Such feats have so impressed the research community that one of the several leading scientists who nominated Cummins for the TR100 described him as "definitely Nobel Prize material."

For the moment, Cummins’ work remains in the realm of fundamental research. But Cummins suggests that his efforts could lead to ways to better utilize small inorganic molecules such as dinitrogen oxide in the manufacturing of everything from pharmaceuticals to plastics.

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