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Nobel prize for inspirational Honorary Professor

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Professor Sir Fraser Stoddart, an Honorary Professor in the School of Chemistry at The University of Nottingham, has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This year’s prize was awarded jointly to the three scientists who helped develop the world’s tiniest machines — machines that are a thousand times thinner than a strand of human hair.

Professor Stoddart, who was appointed an Honorary Professor in Chemistry at The University of Nottingham in August 2015, has been closely involved in the development of Nottingham’s nanoscience and supramolecular chemistry and world leading nanoscale and microscale materials research.

Jonathan Hirst, Professor of Computational Chemistry and Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “It is thrilling to see a Nobel Prize in this area of Chemistry. Nanoscience and supramolecular chemistry are thriving at Nottingham and this news emphasises the excitement in our research community.”

David Amabilino, who joined The University of Nottingham in 2014 as EPSRC/GSK Professor in Sustainable Chemistry, worked in Sir Fraser Stoddart’s and Jean-Pierre Sauvage’s group in the 1990’s. He said: “It was a time of tremendous excitement because they were coming up with highly inventive challenges that captured the imagination of the people working with them. Coming off the back of the boom in supramolecular chemistry, their groups, and that of the third Laureate Ben Feringa (part of a tight-knit community that has endured), made molecular machines based on supramolecular, coordination and covalent chemistries that had unique behaviours. It has been pointed out that they live chemistry fully, and this passion and sense of fun has driven them and inspired their co-workers to make incredible things that actually perform as designed. Fraser's imagination is as alive as ever now, and on his visits to Nottingham as part of his Honorary Professorship, he is able to inspire young and old to use chemistry to do new things.”

Enthusiastic supporter of Nottingham's nanoscience research

Professor Stoddart, who is Director of the Centre for Chemistry of Integrated Systems at Northwestern University in the USA, has been a long-standing enthusiastic supporter of nanoscience research in Nottingham. He was one of the leading figures in nanoscience to deliver lectures to mark the opening of the first purpose built Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Centre on University Park in 2007. The Centre was formally opened by the late Professor Sir Harry Kroto, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996.

Professor Stoddart has given a number of lectures at Nottingham over the last decade, inspiring researchers across the School and the University. He returned in April this year to deliver the keynote lecture at the symposium on Low-Dimensional Materials and to officially open the new Nanoscale and Microscale Research Centre which houses a unique suite of 20 major instruments, including 14 electron microscopes. These instruments offer a diverse range of capabilities for the imaging and analytical investigation of a wide variety of hard and soft materials, in bulk, thin film or nanostructured form.

The building blocks of matter

A particular strength of the Centre’s research in nanoscale molecular materials, including the nanocontainers and nanoreactors recently developed at Nottingham, has been partly inspired by Professor Stoddart’s early work on molecular machines. Their research involves the study of the building blocks of matter — atoms and molecules — in order to understand their structures and chemical compositions. This underpins their application in a range of materials from pharmaceuticals to construction materials. Electron microscopy and powerful surface spectroscopies are used to delve into the structure of molecular materials.

Andrei Khlobystov, Professor of Nanomaterials and Director of the Centre, said: “The research on nanocontainers and nanoreactors is related to the molecular machines developed by Stoddart. We can make molecules perform useful chemical reactions on the tiny scale too.”

The team found themselves in the news headlines this year when they joined in the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations by sending her a birthday greeting on the hair of a corgi.

The groundwork for potential future applications

Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE FRS, Vice President and Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society and Research Professor of Chemistry in the School of Chemistry, said: “It is wonderful news that Royal Society Fellow, Professor Sir J. Fraser Stoddart FRS, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. We offer congratulations to him and to Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Bernard L. Feringa, who share the prize, on this great achievement. Their work demonstrates the potential for chemists to construct tiny molecules which behave like machines, moving in response to a stimulus. These minute machines have laid the groundwork for potential future applications in a range of fields, from health to the miniaturisation of smart devices.”

Posted on Thursday 6th October 2016

Faculty of Science

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