The 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been won by three scientists for their astonishing work in the “design and synthesis of molecular machines”.
Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa have all devoted their scientific careers to creating some of the smallest machines known to man.
The incredible machines created by these scientists are thousands of times thinner than a human strand of hair. Yet despite their size they can accomplish truly remarkable feats.
Nanomachines can be used as a way of delivering drugs into the body, tailoring them to apply a drug directly to the source of the problem e.g. cancer cells.
In 2011 Ben Feringa’s research group were able to showcase how far the process had come by creating a four-wheel drive nanocar.
Fraser Stoddart of the corecipients said of this fellow winners that “It’s not just a scientific family, it’s almost a biological family; we’re very close to each other.”
To give you some idea of just how small the machines are, humans cannot even see their creations through a conventional light microscope.
Instead they’re working on an even smaller scale, with robots and machines being built on the nanoscale.
So how small is the nanoscale? Well a nanometer is effectively a single millimetre divided by one million, each of those parts is then a single nanometer.
Talking about the first time they tried to create a molecular machine Bernard Feringa said he could “hardly believe that it worked.”