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Ben Feringa wins Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize

17 November 2015

On Wednesday 18 November, Ben Feringa, professor of organic chemistry, was presented with the second Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize. The prize was established to honour a person who has made an important contribution to a breakthrough in chemistry. Feringa was awarded the prize for his work on molecular motors.

Ben Feringa with group members Katalin Barta en Tao Yan | Foto Science LinX
Ben Feringa with group members Katalin Barta en Tao Yan | Foto Science LinX

In 1999, Ben Feringa presented the first molecular motor, a part of a molecule able to accomplish full rotation under the influence of light and heat. He produced countless different motors, and even managed to build a molecular ‘4-wheel drive’ car. By attaching the motor molecules to a surface, he created a park of nano turbines that rotate when touched by light. More recently, he defined the first asymmetric molecular motor .

Feringa is seen worldwide as a pioneer in the field of molecular motors. Earlier this year, he was cited extensively in a background article about nanomotors in the journal Nature. One way his motors could be used is to administer medication inside the human body. This week, an article was published describing a light-propelled ‘submarine’ . The article, which appeared in Nano Letters , was partly based on Feringa’s work. In addition to molecular motors, Feringa also focuses on catalysis and is currently working on ‘smart drugs’, which can be switched on and off as required.

The prize was presented by Queen Mathilde of Belgium. This is the second edition of the Solvay Prize, which was established in 2012 in commemoration of Solvay’s 150th anniversary. The Solvay family, which is still a major shareholder in the company, has always maintained a profound interest in fundamental science. More than a hundred years ago, they set up the ‘ Solvay conferences’ , at which top-class scientists speak about specific topics relating to physics and chemistry. In 2007, Feringa attended a Solvay Conference about supramolecular chemistry and molecular motors, and he will attend the next edition in 2016, when catalysis will be on the programme.

For more information about the prize, please refer to the University of Groningen press release.

Illustration of the nolecular car, made by the Feringa Group | Illustration Feringa/Nature
Illustration of the nolecular car, made by the Feringa Group | Illustration Feringa/Nature
Last modified:26 November 2015 11.46 a.m.

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