Research Center for Structural Thermodynamics, Graduate School of Science, Osaka University

Overview of the Center

Overview of the Center

Chemical thermodynamic research at Osaka University was initiated around 1936 in the Physico-Chemical Laboratory by Prof. Isamu Nitta. His philosophy was that crystalline materials should be understood not only from their structure but also from their properties, including their energetic aspect. Expanding the work begun by Prof. Nitta, many types of sophisticated calorimeters were developed by his successor Prof. Syuzo Seki and his students, and used to study various physico-chemical problems including phase transitions, critical phenomena and molecular energetics. A milestone of the thermodynamic research was the discovery of glassy crystals and glassy liquid crystals as new-states of the aggregation of molecules. By virtue of these scientific achievements a new institute associated with the School of Science, the “Chemical Thermodynamics Laboratory” was founded in 1979. On that occasion, a very low temperature calorimeter with 3He/4He dilution refrigerator, Calvet microcalorimeters, a micro combustion calorimeter, and many additional state-of-the-art calorimeters were newly constructed. All the calorimeters were fully automated and thereby very precise thermodynamic data were collected even with only very small amounts of samples.

The scientific investigations spread from chemical thermodynamics to biological thermodynamics. In addition, cooperative research was actively being carried out with scientists from all over the world. Since May 1989, the Chemical Thermodynamics Laboratory was succeeded by the “Microcalorimetry Research Center”, where more comprehensive thermodynamic studies were projected over solid state physics, physical chemistry and biology while developing new microcalorimeters. The discovery of a phase transition in hexagonal ice by Prof. Hiroshi Suga was a milestone and received high acclaim from the international community since his work solved an ice problem that had been debated over the last 50 years.

The research activities at the Microcalorimetry Research Center were formally assessed by the appraisal panel consisting of persons of learning and experience. The panel concluded that the center certainly ranks with equivalent centers in France and the U.S.A. in the top three in the world for quality. In accordance with the assessment, a new institute “Research Center for Molecular Thermodynamics” was founded in April 1999. The purpose of the center was to develop molecular thermodynamics for functional organic compounds. In April 2009, the fourth institute “Research Center for Structural Thermodynamics” was founded to continue for another ten years.

The Annual Report, which contains short accounts of current research topics in Japanese (but with Abstract in English), the list of publications from the Center, and so on, is distributed to scientists and some institutes in chemistry, physics and biology.