Chemistry Nobel for parents of a technique to create more ecological and economic molecules

The German Benjamin List and North American David Macmillan have been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of asymmetric organoons. T

Chemistry Nobel for parents of a technique to create more ecological and economic molecules

The German Benjamin List and North American David Macmillan have been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of asymmetric organoons. The Royal Academy of Swedish Sciences has underlined "the great impact on the pharmaceutical research" of the technique perfected by the two scientists, as well as its contribution to which "chemistry is more ecological".

The jury also explained that many areas of research and multiple industries depend on the capacity of chemicals to create specialized molecules, capable of forming elastic and durable materials, to store energy in batteries or block the progression of diseases.

A work in which catalysts play a key role. These substances control and accelerate chemical reactions, without being part of the final product. The catalysts of cars, for example, transform the toxic substances from combustion into relatively safe molecules. The human body also contains thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes, which generate the necessary reactions for many vital processes.

In fact, for a long time scientists thought that there were only two types of catalysts: metals and enzymes. But in 2000 List and MacMillan developed a third type of catalysis: asymmetric organocatalysis, based on small organic molecules such as amines or thioureas. These organic catalysts have a stable structure of carbon atoms, which can then join chemical groups more active. They usually derive from common elements, such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur or phosphorus, which means that they are more respectful with the environment and cheaper to produce. "That new concept of catalysis was as simple as witty, the truth is that many people have wondered how we did not occur to us before," Johan Åqvist, president of the Nobel Committee of Chemistry.

"When I realized this experiment I did not know what was going to happen, I thought maybe it was a stupid idea, or that someone had already tried it. But when I saw that I felt I could be something big," explained List at a press conference after the Announcement, in which he has also recognized his surprise for receiving the award in a year in which many expected to be rewarded to research that has contributed to vaccines against Covid-19. "I did not expect this huge surprise at all, you have happy the day."

The organocatalysis has been developed and adapted since then at an amazing speed. "Benjamin List and David Macmillan continue to be referenced in this field and have shown that organic catalysts can be applied to boost a multitude of chemical reactions," adds the jury. A rapid expansion that has been largely due to its ability to create asymmetric catalysis. In many investigations, scientists are in situations in which pairs of different molecules can form, which are the image speculating one of the other.

But in many cases research only requires one of the two, for example when pharmaceutical products occur. Thus, thanks to organocatalysis, any laboratory can build more efficiently, from new drugs to molecules capable of capturing light in solar cells. "The true materialization of our discoveries is now going to light with extremely reactive organocatalysts that can do things that are not possible with enzymes or even with the most sophisticated metal complexes," he has summarized List. "In this way, the organocatalysts are providing a huge benefit to humanity," has completed Åqvist.

The awarded this year, List and Macmillan, develop their activity at the Max-Planck Institute and at Princeton University, respectively, the same institutions to which they belong that the Laureates on Tuesday with the Syukuro Manaba Physics Award and Klaus Hasselmann. The Academy will announce on Thursday the Literature Award, the most expected together with that of La Paz, who will be known on Friday in Oslo. The economy will close the season next Monday, October 11.

The winners of this year of the Nobel de Chemistry have imposed more than 70 researchers who aspired to this Laurel. Last year, this award was awarded to the French Emmanuelle Charpentier and the American Jennifer Doudna, two geneticians who developed the "scissors" capable of modifying human genes, a revolutionary achievement.

The 2019 Chemistry Award was for a trio: American John Goodenough - he received it with 97 years - the British Stanley Whittingham and Japanese Akira Yoshino by the invention of lithium-ion batteries, present in many technologies.

The medicine opened the Nobel 2021 awards season on Monday with the consecration of scientists David Julius and ARDEM Patapoutian, for his discoveries of "temperature and touch receivers".

The Physics Award was for Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi, "by important contributions to the understanding of complex physical systems."

The Swedish Academy will announce on Thursday the literature prize, the most expected together with that of peace, which will be known on Friday in Oslo. The economy will close the season next Monday, October 11.

Updated Date: 09 October 2021, 03:32

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