Tomonori Saito

Research Scientist


R&D Research Staff, Soft Materials Group

Chemical Sciences Division

1 Bethel Valley Road, P. O. Box 2008 MS6210, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6210, U.S.A.   

Phone: 865-576-6418, E-mail:

Dr. Tomonori Saito is a synthetic polymer chemist, who has extensive experience in the synthesis of well-defined polymers via living/controlled polymerization as well as post-modification of various polymers. His expertise has been applied to various projects at ORNL including CO2 separation membranes, flow battery, ion-conducting polymers for batteries and battery binders, ionic liquid polymers, polymer nanocomposites, additive manufacturing, polymer nanoparticles, elastomers, self-healing materials, thermal insulation materials, uranium extraction from seawater, polyolefin-based carbon fibers, lignin based-carbon fibers, and lignin-based renewable thermoplastics. He has published 79 peer-reviewed articles (h-index 32), 4 patents issued (one was licensed.), won R&D 100 in 2012 and 2016.

His strength in research relies on the use of his skills in synthetic polymer chemistry to impact material sciences, energy, and chemical & environmental engineering applications. His polymer synthesis experience includes synthesis of block, graft, random copolymers with functional groups using living anionic polymerization, ATRP, RAFT, ROMP, conventional free radical polymerization, step-growth polymerization, and post-functionalization chemistry. His engineering expertise includes design, process and characterization of polymeric materials using various techniques for applications such as CO2 separation membranes, flow battery, self-healing materials, elastomers, carbon fibers, 3D printing, thermal insulation materials, renewable plastics, metal adsorbents, ion-conducting polymers for batteries and hydrogen, methanol & microbial fuel cells.

Current Research Focus

  • Polymer Upcycling
  • Gas Separation Membrane
  • Energy Storage (Polymer Binders, Flow Battery)
  • Polymer Nanocomposites
  • Block Copolymers and Soft Nanoparticles
  • Thermoplastic Elastomers and Superelastomers
  • Self-healing Polymers
  • Additive Manufacturing (Binder Jet 3D Printing)
  • Polymer Electrolytes
  • Building Materials (Thermal Insulation)

Education and Training

Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan                           B.S.           2001       Applied Chemistry

Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan                           M.S.          2003       Chemical Engineering

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA                               Ph.D.        2008       Chemistry (Organic Polymer)

Research and Professional Experience: 

2012 – present   R&D Staff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Chemical Sciences Division

Lead PI on polymeric gas separation membrane. Technical lead for novel polymer synthesis for CO2 separation membranes, uranium adsorbents, ion-conducting polymers for batteries, and ionic liquid polymers using living anionic polymerization, ATRP, RAFT, ROMP, conventional free radical polymerization, olefin polymerization, step-growth polymerization, and post-functionalization chemistry. Also technical lead on binder jet 3D printing as well as UV 3D printing. 

2010 – 2012       Postdoctoral Associate, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Materials Science and Technology Division

Designed and developed polyolefin-based carbon fiber, lignin based-carbon fiber, and lignin-based novel thermoplastic

2008 – 2010       Postdoctoral Associate, The Pennsylvania State University, Materials Science and Engineering, Environmental Engineering

Synthesis of novel proton and anion exchange membranes for hydrogen and methanol fuel cells. Served as a material expert in microbial fuel cells in all the components including polymer binder, polymer coating, and membranes.


2017          ORNL Research Team Award, Carter Abney, Vyacheslav Bryantsev, Christopher J. Janke, Sheng Dai, Richard Mayes, Tomonori Saito, Costas Tsouris
2016          2016 R&D 100, "U Grabber", Sheng Dai, Suree Brown, Robin Rogers, Christopher J. Janke, Richard Mayes, Tomonori Saito, Ronnie Hanes
2012          2012 R&D 100, “HiCap Adsorbents”, Christopher J. Janke, Yatsandra Oyola, Sheng Dai, Chris Bauer, Richard Mayes, Tomonori Saito, Xiao-Guang Sun, Costas Tsouris, Jim Brang, Jeff Haggard
2006.5       ACS Polymer Division Travel Award – POLY Biennial Meeting
2005.1- 2005.6 MII (Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute at Virginia Tech) Frontiers in Graduate Research Fellowships
2003.3.5    Best Research Award (Kurita award) in 2003 at 37th Japan Society on Water Environment Conference in Kumamoto, Japan, Mar. 3-7, 2003
2005 -  Member of American Chemical Society (POLY, PMSE)


Amit K. Naskar, Tomonori Saito, Joseph M. Pickel, Frederick S. Baker, Cliff Eberle, Robert E. Norris, Jr., Jonathan R. Mielenz, “Lignin-Derived Thermoplastic Co-Polymers and Methods of Preparation” U.S. Patent No. 8,748,537 issued: June 10, 2014 licensed on March 2015
Amit K. Naskar, Marcus A. Hunt, Tomonori Saito, “Methods for preparation of carbon fibers from polyolefin fiber precursors, and carbon fiber made thereby” US Patent No. 9096955 B2, August 4, 2015.
Tao Hong, Sabornie Chatterjee, Brian K. Long, De-en Jiang, Shannon M. Mahurin, Jimmy W. Mays, Alexei Sokolov, Tomonori Saito, “Cross-linked Polymeric Membranes for Carbon Dioxide Separation” Provisional Patent filed,  Application number 14826338
Suree Brown, Tomonori Saito, Sheng Dai, “Surface-functionalized polyolefin fibers and their use in methods for extracting metal ions from liquid solutions” Provisional Patent filed
Tolga Aytug, Robert C. Duckworth, Keith J Leonard, Parans Mariappan Paranthaman, Georgios Polyzos, Tomonori Saito, “Method for producing radiation-resistant polymer composite materials” Provisional Patent filed,  Application number 62/105,796