Updated on 6 October 2016
The trio of Bernard Feringa, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage were presented with the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for the "design and synthesis of molecular machines". The laureates will share the 8 million Swedish crown ($933, 000) prize awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The miniscule machines - a thousand times smaller than a strand of human hair - consist of molecules that produce controlled movements when energy is added. Through both independent and collaborative research, the three European scientists have successfully linked molecules together to develop various miniature mechanisms, including a four-wheel drive car and artificial muscles.
"These three laureates...have opened this entire field of molecular machinery and shown us that you can make machine-like function at the molecular level," said Olof Ramström, a member of Nobel chemistry committee.
Frenchman Sauvage, an emeritus professor at the University of Strasbourg and director of research emeritus at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) first manufactured molecules with an easily manipulated mechanical bond in 1983. In 1991, Scottish-born Stoddard, a professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University in the United States, produced a ring of molecules whose controlled movements along an axle were possible with the introduction of heat.
Dutch chemist Feringa, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, later built on these earlier breakthroughs to create the world's first molecular motor, a minute blade that continually rotates in the same direction, in 1999.