Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to 2 chemists who have developed a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way of building molecules

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 to Benjamin List and David WC MacMillan “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”, an “ingenious tool for building molecules” with organic catalysts. Princeton University, where Scottish-born MacMillan teaches, released a video of MacMillan and a colleague explaining catalysis after the award was announced.

Before MacMillan and List independently developed asymmetric organocatalysis in 2000, chemists believed that there were only two types of catalysts, metals and enzymes, to speed up the process of molecular building. said the Nobel Committee. This new, third type of catalysis, based on cheap and environmentally friendly organic molecules, has enabled researchers to “design everything from new pharmaceuticals to molecules that can capture light in solar cells. In this way, organocatalysts bring the greatest benefit to mankind. “

Your discovery is “already enormously beneficial” to mankind, said Nobel panelist Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede tells The Associated Press.

List, a 53-year-old German at the Max Planck Institute, called he was on vacation in Amsterdam when he got the “big surprise call” and he “absolutely didn’t expect it”. He added that at first he didn’t know MacMillan was working on the same idea, and he thought his hunch might end up being a “stupid idea” until it worked.

“This concept for catalysis is as simple as it is ingenious, and the fact is that many people have wondered why we didn’t think of it before,” said Johan Åqvist, chairman of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, said in a statement. List and MacMillan each receive a Nobel Gold Medal and share the $ 1.14 million prize.

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