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Three European scientists have been awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their designs and uses of nanotechnology.
Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa developed molecules with controllable movements. The Nobel Prize council lauded their creations as “revolutionary.”
“The 2016 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have miniaturized machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
The development and idea process took decades. Sauvage first linked two ring-shaped molecules together into a chain in 1983. This chain, called a cantene, was connected with a mechanical bond, slightly freer than a normal covalent bond. These bonds allow for the movement in the award-winning molecules.
In 1991, Stoddart developed a molecular lift, a molecular muscle and a molecule-based computer chip. The lift could raise itself 0.7 nanometers above a surface.
Eight years after Stoddart’s lift, Bernard Feringa became the first person to develop the molecular motor by getting a molecular rotor blade to spin in the same direction. Using that motor, Feringa designed a functioning nanocar.
Professor Sara Snogerup Linse of the Academy said the machines have enormous potential. She explained the molecular motor was akin to the revolutionary power of the electric motor in the 1830s. People were “unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors,” the Academy said.
This molecular technology could lead to tiny machines to fight diseases or repair damaged tissue. It could even spur on the development of new materials, sensors and energy storage.
The three scientists will split the 8 million Swedish Krona ($930,000 USD) prize.
Nanotechnology has bloomed in recent years, as more researchers develop ways to make machines smaller and more impactful.
Last year’s Chemistry Nobel was awarded to three scientists on cell repair after exposure to ultraviolet lights and industrial pollution.