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|Year of election:||2019|
Major Scientific Interests: Synthetic chemistry, Molecular Nanoscience, Catalysis, Supramolecular Chemistry, Photopharmacology
Ben Feringa is a chemist. His research focuses on organic chemistry and molecular nanotechnology. He was the first to develop a molecular motor. In 2016 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the design and synthesis of molecular machines” together with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Fraser Stoddart.
Feringa builds tiny molecular switches and motors from organic molecules. Such molecular motors play an important role in nature. In muscle cells, for example, myosin molecules are responsible for muscle contraction.
Feringa developed a light-driven molecular motor based on the light-sensitive molecule rhodopsin. These molecules can directly use light to generate a directional rotor movement.The molecular motor thus becomes controllable and is therefore capable to perform a specific task. Molecular motors can currently rotate up to ten million times per second.
Based on these findings, Ben Feringa constructed the world's first molecular "Nanocar" from molecules. It is only two nanometers in size and uses rotor molecules for propulsion. If the scientists let electrons float above the "Nanocar", the rotor molecules rotate in one direction and move the vehicle.
There are many conceivable applications for molecular engines and "Nanocars" in the future. They could be used to transport medication to specific targets in the body. Molecules equipped with light switches could then be activated at the target point with a corresponding light wavelength. Light-controlled antibiotics or chemotherapeutic agents could be used selectively and possible side effects therefore avoided. Molecular motors and machines may also be used for the development of new materials, sensors, and energy storage systems.
Photo: University of Groningen