2016 Chemistry Nobel Goes To Scientists Who Made "The World's Smallest Machines"
"It’s similar to the beginning of the 19th century, when scientists demonstrated electrical machines, which then created a revolution."
Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for designing and building the "world's smallest machines".
The prize is split equally between the three scientists. Sauvage is originally from Paris and now works at the University of Strasbourg in France. Stoddart was born in Scotland and is now at Northwestern University in the US. Feringa is from the Netherlands and works at the University of Groningen.
The scientists developed molecular machines – molecules with movements that we can control. In the 1980s, Sauvage linked two ring-shaped molecules together, forming a chain called a "catenane". In the early 90s, Stoddart created a machine called a "rotaxane" that was made of a molecular ring on a molecular axel. Later that decade, Feringa created the first molecular motor.
Since then they have built on these discoveries – in 2011, Feringa's group made a "nanocar".
The prize was announced at a press conference in Stockholm. Olof Ramstrom, a member of the committee who selected the winners, said at the press conference: "What these three laureates have done is they have opened up this whole field of molecular machinery and shown it is possible to make machines or machine-like function at the molecular level, and really mastered control at this level."
"It’s a development stage similar to the beginning of the 19th century, when scientists demonstrated electrical machines, which then created a revolution and now we have electrical machines everywhere."
Speaking on the phone to the press conference in Stockholm, Feringa said: "What I said when I got this message was, 'I don’t know what to say, I am a bit shocked because it was such a great surprise'. My second remark was 'I am so honoured and emotional about it'.
"When I saw these machines working for the first time was also a shock, because for the first time we saw movement, a motor. I could hardly believe that it worked."
The scientists will collect their prize at a ceremony in Stockholm on 10 December, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.