Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded for Building a Molecular Engine

This year, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Jean-Pierre Savage (France), John Fraser Stoddart (USA) and Bernard Fehringa (Holland) for research in the field of creating molecular motors.

In terms of scientific and technological progress, the molecular engine today is at about the same stage as the electric motor in the first half of the 19th century.

People then looked with surprise and fear at the connecting rods and wheels rotating under the influence of an unknown force. It never occurred to anyone that this was the prototype of future electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors. Their molecular "descendants" will find their application in other, more "delicate" areas - in the creation of new materials, nanosensors and energy storage systems.

Jean-Pierre Savage has worked in the field of photochemistry for a long time. One day, he discovered two molecules bound together around a copper ion. Savage removed the copper ion, but the bond between the molecules was preserved. Later it was called catenan. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it is a mechanical bond (one ring around another), and not an electronic one, forming covalent bonds. Savage was the first to synthesize compounds from the catenan class.

Scotsman Fraser Stottard, now working in the United States, synthesized molecules of rotaxanes, consisting of a long chain, with a ring loosely strung on it. Large structures along the edges of the chain prevent the ring from “jumping off” from it.

Ben Feringa is known as one of the leading experts in the field of molecular machinery. He created the world's first molecular motor with molecules moving in one direction, and not chaotically, as is usually the case. He was able to achieve this with the help of pulses of ultraviolet light, which set in motion the molecular rotor blades.