German chemist Benjamin List and UK-born David MacMillan have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
They were recognised for “their development of a precise new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis”.
“Many research areas and industries are dependent on chemists’ ability to construct molecules that can form elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or inhibit the progression of diseases,” said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in a statement.
“This work requires catalysts, which are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions, without becoming part of the final product. For example, catalysts in cars transform toxic substances in exhaust fumes to harmless molecules. Our bodies also contain thousands of catalysts in the form of enzymes, which chisel out the molecules necessary for life.
“Catalysts are thus fundamental tools for chemists, but researchers long believed that there were, in principle, just two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes. Benjamin List and David MacMillan are awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2021 because in 2000 they, independent of each other, developed a third type of catalysis. It is called asymmetric organocatalysis and builds upon small organic molecules.”