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Three Share Chemistry Nobel for Molecular Machines
Oct 10, 2016

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2016 has been awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa for developing molecular machines.

Feringa, 65, is a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Sauvage, 71, is professor emeritus at the University of Strasbourg and director of research emeritus at France's National Center for Scientific Research.

Stoddart, 74, a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who became a U.S. citizen in 2011.

  • Sauvage made the first breakthrough in 1983 when he linked two ring-shaped molecules together in such a way that they could move in relation to each other. Moving parts are key to a machine.
  • Stoddart took the next step in 1991 by threading a molecular ring onto a molecular axle and showing the ring could move back and forth. By 1994, he could completely control that movement. His group later built a tiny elevator-like machine and an artificial muscle.
  • Feringa built the first molecular motor in 1999, a molecule that could be made to spin in just one direction. He leads a research group that in 2011 built a nanocar, a minuscule vehicle with four molecular motors as wheels.
  • The laureates' work has inspired other researchers to build increasingly advanced molecular machinery, including a robot that can grasp and connect amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
  • The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturisation of technology can lead to a revolution.
  • The 2016 Nobel laureates in Chemistry have miniaturised machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension.
  • 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.


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