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Jean-Pierre Sauvage

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa for the development of the world’s smallest machines.

They will share the 8 million kronor prize for the design and synthesis of machines on a molecular scale.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa were named at a press conference in Sweden.

They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added.

The machines conceived by today’s laureates are a thousand times thinner than a strand of hair.nobel-prize-in-chemistry-2016

They could slip inside the human body to deliver drugs from within – for instance, applying pharmaceuticals directly to cancer cells.

This field of nanotechnology could also yield applications in the design of smart materials.

The prize recognizes their success in linking molecules together to design everything from motors to a car and muscles on a tiny scale.

“They have mastered motion control at the molecular scale,” said Olof Ramström, from the Nobel Committee.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage was born in 1944 in Paris, France. He is currently emeritus professor at the University of Strasbourg and director of research emeritus at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

His work provided early breakthroughs in the area of molecular machines. He had been researching the use of sunlight to drive chemical reactions but this work helped him work out that he could link different molecules together in a chain.

This was the first step towards building molecular machines. In 1994, Jean-Pierre Sauvage’s research group succeeded in making one molecule rotate around the other in a controlled manner when energy was applied.

Sir Fraser Stoddart was born in 1942 in Edinburgh, the UK. He is currently affiliated to the Northwestern University, in the US.

He made a key advance by threading a molecular ring on to a rod-like structure that acted as an axle.

He then made use of the ring’s freedom to move along the axle. When he added heat, the ring jumped forwards and backwards – like a tiny shuttle.

Fraser Stoddart’s group later built on this discovery to build numerous molecular machines, including a lift, a muscle and – in partnership with other researchers – a computer chip.

Bernard Feringa was born in 1951 in Barger-Compascuum, in the Netherlands. He is a professor in organic chemistry at the University of Gröningen, the Netherlands.