IN this field, the honour went 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”. They developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added. The process began with Sauvage in 1983, when he linked two ring-shaped molecules together to form a chain, called a “catenane”, enabling them to be linked in 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 – made possible by the two interlocked rings. In 1991 Stoddart developed arotaxane by threading a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle, showing that the ring was able to move along the axle, and Feringa was the first person to develop a molecula motor; in 1999 he got a molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction. Using molecular motors, he has rotated a glass cylinder that is 10,000 times bigger than the motor and also designed a nanocar. The academy described this development as being at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s – scientists were unaware that the cranks and wheels they were refining would lead to washing machines, fans and food processors. In the future, think of these in terms of nanomachines and microrobots, so tiny they will be able to enter your blood stream to find cancer cells, described Feringa.
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