Nobel Prize for chemistry awarded to 'molecular machine' trio

The 2016 Nobel Chemistry Prize was awarded to a trio behind some of the world's tiniest machines.

Story highlights

  • Nano four-wheel drive car, tiny lift and molecular muscle built
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences says the technology could lead to a revolution

(CNN)The 2016 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three European molecular scientists who developed the world's smallest machines.

The prize went to Jean-Pierre Sauvage of the University of Strasbourg in France; Sir James Fraser Stoddart of Northwestern University in the United States; and Bernard L Feringa of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands for the "design and synthesis of molecular machines."
    The laureate medal featuring the profile of Alfred Nobel.
    "The 2016 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have miniaturized machines and taken chemistry to a new dimension," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
    The men, who have researched both independently and with each other, will share the 8 million kronor ($933,000) prize between them.
    According to the Nobel Prize Twitter account, Stoddart said: "It's not just a scientific family, it's almost a biological family; we're very close to each other."
    Another tweet explained that Sauvage took the first step in 1983 by linking two ring-shaped molecules together to form a chain.
    Stoddart in 1991 developed a rotaxane, a dumbbell-shaped molecular structure that enabled him to build a molecular lift, a molecular muscle and a molecule-based computer chip.
    Feringa in 1999 was the first person to develop a molecular motor and in 2011 designed a four-wheel-drive nanocar.
    "I could hardly believe that it worked," Feringa said of the first time they built a molecular machine, the Nobel Prize committee tweeted.

    What does this mean?

    The Academy's Professor Sara Snogerup says the nanomachines we are talking about are so small we can't see them, even with a light telescope. In fact, they are up to 10,000 times thinner than a hair.
    These tiny machines that we can't even see have enormous potential. The Academy explained that the molecular motor was at the same stage as the electric motor in the 1830s, "when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, un