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Micro Machines Inventors Win Nobel Prize for Chemistry!

Posted by cirvine on October 6, 2016


No, not those Micro Machines.


The micro machines I’m talking about are much much smaller—1000 times smaller than a human hair kind of small. Molecular. 

Yesterday, the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded equally to three scientists: Jean-Pierre Sauvage (France), Sir J. Fraser Stoddart (UK), and Bernard L. Feringa (Netherlands) for their design and synthesis of molecular machines.


OK, so let’s get to it. What are molecular machines exactly? Instead of trying to explain this complex science myself, I’m going to let the Youtube channel Reactions do it for me.

So these are basically controllable molecules that can perform tasks when given the mere fuel of light and heat.  That’s pretty incredible. But why should we care? Well, as the Nobel Prize website states, “In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors.”


Basically, we are on the cusp of some really exciting technology here. Because of these three scientists’ ground work, a myriad of other molecular machines have been built, including a motorized molecular car from Feringa’s lab. Who knows where this technology could take us? The first applications that have been predicted include artificial muscles, smart materials that can store energy or expand and contract in response to light.

The potential medical applications are really interesting. Using the same light-activated mechanism, researchers have developed around 100 drug-like compounds that can be switched on or off in response to light. For example, certain anti-cancer compounds have serious side effects because they indiscriminately attack tumours and healthy tissues alike. These serious side-effects could be reduced by using these light-switchable mechanisms to deliver drugs to certain areas of the body only.

I, for one, am really excited to be alive to see this technology take its first steps (or should I say take its first drive?) Congratulations to these three incredible scientists for their prestigious award and for bringing this seriously cool science into our lives. Thank you!




Candice Irvine, Blogger, Marketing Specialist, Graphic Designer

I'm addicted to games of all kinds: boardgames, video games, card games, mind games... nah, just kidding about that last one. Or am I?