Nobel Prize Current Affairs - 2019

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Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L Feringa win 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

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.

Contributions of

  • 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.

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British trio David Thouless, F Duncan M Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz win 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics

British trio of physicists David Thouless, F Duncan M Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz have won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics. They will share the 8 million Swedish kronor prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has selected them for their individual researches on theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.

Key Facts

  • Their research work centres on Topology, a branch of mathematics involving step-wise changes like making a series of holes in an object.
  • For example when matter goes from solid to liquid to gas different phases are obvious, but materials can also undergo topological step changes which affect their electrical properties.
  • Such changes can be seen in a superconductor, which at low temperatures conducts electricity without resistance.
  • These trio physicists had worked in the field of condensed matter physics and have discovered totally unexpected behaviours of solid materials.
  • Based on their individual discoveries they came up with a mathematical framework in the field of topology to explain these weird properties.
  • The discoveries have paved the way for designing new materials with all sorts of novel properties that have significant potential revolutionize advances in electronics and future quantum computers.

About Awardees

  • David J Thouless: He is Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, US.
  • Duncan M. Haldane: He is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Princeton University, US.
  • J Michael Kosterlitz: He is the Harrison E. Farnsworth Professor of Physics at Brown University, US.

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