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Pulickel Ajayan

 Dr. Pulickel Madhavapanicker Ajayan (Malayalam: പുളിക്കല്‍ മാധവപ്പണിക്കര്‍ അജയന്‍), known as P. M. Ajayan, is the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Engineering at Rice University[1], and the Henry Burlage professor of Material Sciences and Engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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Ajayan's research has been in the field of nanotechnology. He is noted for leading advances in carbon nanotube technology. In 1992, at the NEC Fundamental Research Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan[2] (the lab of Dr. Sumio Iijima, the discoverer of nanotubes), he teamed with Thomas Ebbesen to develop the first method for making macroscopic quantities of nanotubes.[2] They demonstrated that nanotubes can be produced in bulk quantities by varying the arc-evaporation conditions. The experiment involved placing two graphite rods millimeters apart, and wiring them to a power supply. As 100 amperes of current sparked between the rods, hot plasma was created by the vaporization of carbon. Some of this plasma underwent condensation and formed nanotubes.[2] This was a considerable advance in the technology, and created a boom in carbon nanotube research.

Professor Ajayan’s research interests are mainly focused on the synthesis and characterization of one-dimensional nanostructures with special emphasis on carbon nanotubes. He is a pioneer in the area of nanotubes and has published some of the key papers in the field with more than 3000 citations for his work in this area. Among his research accomplishments, he presented a simple chemical method of opening and filling nanotubes. He, along with Vinod P. Veedu, Anyuan Cao and Mehrdad N. Ghasemi Nejhad have been awarded a Guinness World Record for creating the smallest nanotube brushes with bristles.[3] According to a Science Watch Analysis, he is the 7th most cited author in Nanotechnology for the period of 1992-2002.[4]


Ajayan teaches materials science and nanotechnology in Rice's Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. In his role as an academic at RPI, Ajayan has been a major promoter of nanotechnology, teaching various interdisciplinary courses at the undergraduate level, which emphasize the changes occurring in materials science. Constantly traveling to expand the field, Dr. Ajayan spends a good amount of time abroad and around the United States.

At RPI, Ajayan was a reputed professor known for his relaxed attitude. He has earned the praise of his fellow researchers and students, along with the nickname, "the Prime Minister" stemming from his initials (P. M.) and his role as a dignitary of nanotechnology.

Educational background

Ajayan's early education was in Kerala, India. Till the sixth standard, he studied in a government school in Kodungallur[5], after which he moved to Loyola School, Thiruvananthapuram[6], a high school he has credited for making a strong impact on him, and for making him "realize that learning is the most exciting thing one can ever befriend".[6] He graduated from Loyola in 1977.[5] In 1985, Ajayan graduated with a B.Tech. degree in Metallurgical Engineering from the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India[1]. He did so by finishing at the top of his class, thereby winning the department's gold medal [1]. In 1989, he earned a PhD in Materials Sciece and Engineering[6][1] from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.


  • Named Scientific American magazine as a Research Leader within the 2006 “Scientific American 50”[7][8][9]
  • Materials Research Society (MRS) medal, 2006
  • National Science Foundation 1998 CAREER early development award


  1. ^ a b c d Rice University - Faculty Page of Pulickel M. Ajayan
  2. ^ a b c "Nanotubes FOR Electronics" by Philip G. Collins and Phaedon Avouris: Scientific American: Dec2000, Vol. 283 Issue 6, p62.
  3. ^ Nanotechnology Now - Press Release: US nanotechnologists make it to the Guinness Book of World Records
  4. ^ " .
  5. ^ a b - P.M. Ajayan: Science Hero from Loyola
  6. ^ a b c - Nanotech holds key to the future
  7. ^ Scientific American 50: SA 50 Winners and Contributors: Scientific American
  8. ^ Scientific American 50: Trends in Research, Business and Policy: Scientific American
  9. ^ SPIE: Notice on Scientific American's top 50
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