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2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for fundamental research on molecular machines

Nobel Prize goes to TUM IAS Fellow Prof. Bernard L. Feringa

TUM-Vicepresident Prof. Thomas Hofmann (l) and  Prof. Ben Feringa with the certificate of appointment as TUM-IAS Honorary Hans Fischer Senior Fellow - Photo: Astrid Eckert / TUM
TUM-Vicepresident Prof. Thomas Hofmann (l) and Prof. Ben Feringa with the certificate of appointment as TUM-IAS Honorary Hans Fischer Senior Fellow - Photo: Astrid Eckert / TUM

Auszeichnungen

Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Prof. Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Prof. Bernard L. Feringa have received this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their groundbreaking work on the design and production of molecular machines. Prof. Feringa is a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He has been working together with Prof. Thorsten Bach, who holds the TUM Chair for Organic Chemistry I., for many years now.

Prof. Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Prof. Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Prof. Bernard L. Feringa established the foundations for creating molecules that carry out controlled movements when energy is applied to them: Machines for the nano-world.

While the movement of molecules is usually rather random, Bernard L. Feringa and his working group succeeded in constructing molecules which always rotate in the same direction when driven by energy in the form of light. These molecular motors are anchored on a surface of gold in a way that makes it possible for them to carry out controlled movements.

The molecular motors were for example able to move a small glass cylinder. In more recent work Prof. Feringa's team has succeeded among other things in building a brake into this molecular motor and reversing the direction of rotation.

A partnership of many years

The close collaboration between Prof. Feringa at the University of Groningen and Prof. Thorsten Bach, holder of the Chair for Organic Chemistry I. at TUM, goes back many years. In 2011 Bernard L. Feringa received the Humboldt Research Award, which he used to intensify research collaboration with TU Munich.

Since 2012 Prof. Feringa has been a member of the TUM Institute for Advanced Study as Honorary Hans Fischer Senior Fellow. On several occasions during this period he has spent time as a visiting researcher in Garching. The research activities of both groups share in common light as the driver for chemical reactions.

Working groups at the TUM Physics Department, associated with Professors Rief, Simmel, Dietz and Bausch, took another approach: their research also addresses molecular motors, however with a focus on biochemical molecules.