Physicists from the University of Bath have won the Elektra Award for their ground-breaking work on plasmonic nanomaterials. The team scooped up the University Research Project of the Year Award for creating a material that is likely to accelerate the development of new pharmaceuticals.

The material shows promise in being able to detect whether a molecule twists to the left or the right. The chemical molecules of most new pharmaceuticals have a twisted shape (somewhat similar to the DNA helix), however a twist in the wrong direction can turn a medicine into a poison. Nanomaterials are emerging as a promising medium to monitor and control the twist in molecules. The unique properties of the nanomaterial discovered in Bath allow scientists to determine the direction of these twists in an entirely new way.

Professor Ventsislav Valev, who led the project from the university’s Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials, said: "We are delighted to be getting recognition for this work. It will stimulate us to continue with this line of research and redouble our efforts."

The Bath researchers won their prize in a public vote. Elektra Awards, run by the magazine Electronics Weekly, celebrate the finest technological innovations of the year.