Nobel Prize for Chemistry goes to Dutch professor for molecular machines

Nobel Prize for Chemistry goes to Dutch professor for molecular machines

Bernard Feringa, a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Groningen, has been jointly awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on nanotechnology.

"For the greatest benefit to mankind"

In combination with French scientist Jean-Pierre Sauvage, and Sir Fraser Stoddart, a British professor based in the US, Professor Feringa was awarded the prize for "the design and synthesis of molecular machines".

The three scientists will jointly receive prize money of eight million kroner (830.000 euros), after the Nobel Committee named them this year’s winners at a press conference in Sweden.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded 108 times since it was first introduced in 1901. According to its founder Alfred Nobel, the prize is to be awarded in honour of "the greatest benefit to mankind".

The potential of nanotechnology

In receiving the Nobel Prize Professor Feringa has been hailed as a fundamental figure in the accelerating science of nanotechnology.

Creating machines that are a thousand times finer than a strand of human hair, nanotechnology has the potential to be effectively applied in countless aspects of our lives.

From applying drugs directly to where they’re needed within the human body, to cancer treatment and smart materials, the possibilities of this field of science are just beginning to take flight.

Tiny cars and miniature motors

Professor Feringa’s work focuses on synthetic and physical organic chemistry. By studying dynamic molecular systems, he and his team have been able to explore and develop self-assembly, molecular switches and motors on a molecular level.

In 1999, Feringa’s team conducted research that resulted in the production of a continually spinning molecular motor.

In 2011 they took this knowledge even further, building a four-wheel drive nanocar in the form of a single molecule with four shape-shifting "wheels", which advanced the vehicle when an electric current was applied.

"I feel like the Wright Brothers"

Professer Feringa described his reaction to the news as: "I don't know what to say, I'm shocked. And my second remark was: 'I'm a bit emotional about it'."

According the BBC he added: "I feel a little bit like the Wright Brothers who were flying 100 years ago for the first time and people were saying why do we need a flying machine and now we have a Boeing 747 and an Airbus. The opportunities are great."

Sources: BBC, Ben Feringa Research Group

Beatrice Clarke


Beatrice Clarke

Beatrice is a native Melbournian who moved to the Netherlands in 2009. With a background in independent publishing and fashion, Beatrice honed her understanding of Dutch language and culture working...

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