Nobel Prize for chemistry awarded to 'molecular machine' trio

The 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three pioneering scientists who have taken their field to a “new dimension” with work on molecular machines.

The prize went to Jean-Pierre Sauvage of the University of Strasbourg in France; Sir James Fraser Stoddart of Northwestern University in the United States, and Bernard L Feringa of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.

The Nobel committee said the trio had developed the “world’s smallest machines” — molecules with controllable movements that “can perform a task when energy is added.”

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said molecular machines ‘will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems.’

‘They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added,’ the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement awarding the 8 million Swedish crown ($931,000/£732,004) prize.

The winning paper was entitled ‘for the design and synthesis of molecular machines’.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage was born in 1944 in Paris, France. He is currently emeritus professor at the University of Strasbourg and director of research emeritus at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Sir Fraser Stoddart was born in 1942 in Edinburgh, UK. He is currently affiliated to the Northwestern University, in the US.

Bernard L. Feringa born in 1951 in Barger-Compascuum, the Netherlands. He is a professor in organic chemistry at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Between them the group has created a range of tiny machines throughout their careers.

One of the winning trio, Professor Bernard Feringa, created a car the size of a single molecule in 2011, which could only be viewed under spectacularly small lens.

Given that it is so small, the only real ways that it has any visual similarities to a car is that it has four wheels and a bare-bones internal framework.

The car is powered by electrical pulses that respond to millivolts of energy. For every half-turn of its wheels, the car needed another jolt of energy.

Because of its high energy requirements and minuscule size, it’s no surprise that the first journey was only six nanometres.

Even though the actual size of the project may be smaller than the average human eye, it is a massive breakthrough for scientists in the field of nanotechnology.

The creators argue that while you may not see these little speed demons tearing down highways anytime soon, the research behind it will likely effect other fields in years to come.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is the third Nobel award announced this week.
The first, the award in medicine or physiology, was given to Japanese biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi on Monday for his work exploring autophagy – the process by which cells recycle their own contents.

Autophagy – which comes from the Greek meaning ‘self-eating’ – is the process by which cells effectively eat their own contents, breaking them down into their building blocks so they can be used elsewhere.

Yesterday, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three Brits for their research into the secrets of ‘exotic matter’.

The prize was given in recognition of work that opened the door to a mysterious world in which matter can assume unusual states unknown in nature.

On Friday, the Nobel Peace prize will be announce in Oslo.


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