STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Three scientists whose independent work led to the development of molecular machines with controllable movement won the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry, the organization announced Wednesday.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa, who will share a prize of nearly $1 million.
"The development of computing demonstrates how the miniaturization of technology can lead to a revolution," The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences wrote in a statement. "The 2016 Nobel laureates in chemistry have miniaturized machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension."
Sauvage was born in Paris in 1944 and serves as professor emeritus at the University of Strasbourg and as the director of research emeritus at France's National Center for Scientific Research. He successfully linked two ring-shaped molecules together to form a chain -- known as a catenane -- in 1983.
Molecules are normally joined by strong covalent bonds, in which atoms share electrons, but Sauvage linked them with a mechanical bond, which is more free for movement.
"For a machine to be able to perform a task it must consist of parts that can move relative to each other. The two interlocked rings fulfilled exactly this requirement," the science academy wrote.
Stoddart was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1942 and serves as a professor of chemistry in Illinois' Northwestern University's Board of Trustees. In 1991, Stoddart threaded a molecular ring onto a thin molecular axle and in doing so developed what is known as a rotaxane by demonstrating the ring could move along the axle. Molecular lifts, molecular muscles and molecule-based computer chips are developments based on rotaxanes.
Feringa was born in 1952 in the Netherlands and serves as a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Groningen. In 1999, Feringa was the first to develop a molecular rotor.
"He got a molecular rotor blade to spin continually in the same direction. Using molecular motors, he has rotated a glass cylinder that is 10,000 times bigger than the motor and also designed a nanocar," the academy wrote.
The academy added that this year's chemistry Nobel laureates took "molecular systems out of equilibrium's stalemate and into energy-filled states in which their movements can be controlled."
"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," the academy wrote. "Molecular machines will most likely be used in the development of things such as new materials, sensors and energy storage systems."