The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded jointly to Jean-Pierre Sauvage (University of Strasbourg, France), Sir J. Fraser Stoddart (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA), and Bernard, L. Feringa (University of Groningen, the Netherlands) “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines,” according to an October 5, 2016 announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. These scientists have developed molecules with controllable movements, that can perform a task when energy is added. The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturization of technology can lead to a revolution. The 2016 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have miniaturized machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension. The first step towards a molecular machine was taken by Dr. Sauvage in 1983, when he succeeded in linking two ring-shaped molecules together to form a chain, called a catenane. Normally, molecules are joined by strong covalent bonds in which the atoms share electrons, but in Dr. Sauvage’s chain the molecules were instead linked by a freer “mechanical bond.” For a machine to be able to perform a task it must consist of parts that can move relative to each other. The two interlocked rings fulfilled exactly this requirement. The second step was taken by Dr. Stoddart in 1991, when he developed arotaxane. He threaded a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle and demonstrated that the ring was able to move along the axle. Among his developments based on rotaxanes are a molecular lift, a molecular muscle, and a molecule-based computer chip. Dr. Feringa was the first person to develop a molecular motor; in 1999 he succeeded in getting a molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction.
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