Trio of Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L Feringa have won the prestigious 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has chosen them for this award for their individual efforts in developing molecular machines. These three laureates will share the 8 million Swedish kronor (around $933,000) prize equally.
What are molecular machines?
- Molecular machines or nanomachines are the world’s smallest machines.
- Their working is inspired by proteins that naturally act as biological machines within cells.
- Molecular machines are discrete number of synthetic molecular components fused together. They produce quasi-mechanical movements in response to specific external stimuli such as light or temperature change.
- Molecular machines can be put to work as tiny motors, pistons ratchets or wheels to produce mechanical motion and can move objects many time their size.
- Future Potential Applications: Molecular machines can be developed to function as artificial muscles to power tiny robots or even prosthetic limbs in case of Bionics.
- They may lead to developments like new sensors, materials and energy storage systems.
- They can be used to deliver drugs within the human body directly to target a specific area of tissue to medicate or cancerous cells.
- They can be used to design of a molecular computer which could be placed inside the body to detect disease even before any symptoms are exhibited.
- Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France): He had taken first step towards a molecular machine in 1983, after he successfully linkied together two ring-shaped molecules to form a chain.
- J Fraser Stoddart (Britain): In 1991, he threaded a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle and successfully demonstrated that the ring was able to move along the axle.
- Bernard L Feringa (Netherlands): He is the first person to develop a molecular motor. In 1999 successfully designed molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction. He also had designed nanocar using molecular motors.