Julia Ortony: Concocting nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications

In her research at DMSE, Professor Julia Ortony performs a contemporary version of alchemy. Her fascination with the way nanomolecules self-assemble lead her to work on finding the potential of these nanomaterials for use in renewable energy and environmental technologies. Since coming to MIT, Ortony has explored the challenges of controlling the dynamics of self-assembling molecules to create nanofibers that can behave like a solid. "We've developed unique, molecular nanostructures that self-assemble, are stable in both water and air, and--since they're so tiny--have extremely high surface areas," Ortony says. She has leapt to exploit these features in environmental and energy applications.

While she is passionate about using her discoveries to solve critical problems, she remains entranced by the beauty she finds pursuing chemistry. Fascinated by science starting in childhood, Ortony says she sought out every available class in chemistry, “learning everything from beginning to end, and discovering that I loved organic and physical chemistry, and molecules in general.” 

Read more about Professor Ortony in MITei's Autumn 2019 issue of Energy Futures.