The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday awarded two scientists the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work – independently – in developing a new way of manufacturing molecules, a process with applications across industry.
Speaking in Stockholm, the Academy’s general secretary, Goran Hansen, said chemists Benjamin List of Germany’s Max Planck Institute and David Macmillan of Princeton University would split this year’s prize.
In presenting the award, the Academy explained that two chemists have developed new, organic catalysts to help build molecules.
Catalysts are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions without becoming part of the final product, and are essential for the manufacture of molecules for research and industry.
As the Academy previously stated, it was believed that only two types of catalysts were available: metals and enzymes. But over the past 20 years, List and Macmillan, working independently of each other, have developed a third type of catalyst, known as asymmetric organocatalysis.
In the words of the Academy, “Organic catalysts have a stable structure of carbon atoms to which more active chemical groups can be attached. These often contain common elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur or phosphorus. This means that these catalysts are environmentally friendly. are both adaptable and cheap to produce.”
Using these reactions, researchers can create molecules that can make elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or stop disease progression.
Earlier this week the Nobel Prizes for Medicine and Physics were awarded. Prizes for Literature, Peace and Economics will be presented next week.
Some of the information for this report has come from AP.