British academics awarded Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics

British academics have been awarded 2016 Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics for work on molecular machines and condensed matter respectively.

Prof Sir J Fraser Stoddart was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Professors Bernard Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage for their development of molecular machines that could potentially be used for the delivery of drugs inside the human body and to develop new smart materials.

Prof Stoddart, who received grant funding from EPSRC while he carried out his work in the 1990s, made a major advance by threading a molecular ring on a rod-like structure acting as an axle, and moving the ring when heat was applied.

According to EPSRC, this led to further progress through the development of molecular machines such as lifts, muscles and a computer chip.

Prof Philip Nelson, chief executive, EPSRC said: “This is yet another UK science success story. On behalf of EPSRC I would like to congratulate all involved and Sir Fraser Stoddart in particular. He has worked on over 20 EPSRC-funded projects during his career including some international collaborations while based in the US; and his work on nanostructures will have real-world impact.”

Prof Lee Cronin, Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and an EPSRC RISE Fellow, who is a friend of Professor Stoddart, said: “He has really changed the way the world views chemistry and the potential of synthesis and self-assembly by showing that molecules can be engaged to become machines.”

Sir Fraser Stoddart’s award follows yesterday’s announcement that three British academics have been named winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics.

David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz were jointly awarded the prize in recognition of their work in the field of condensed matter physics, which could be utilised in electronics and computing.

Collectively, the academics have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films.

Dr Chris Hooley, senior lecturer in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics and CM-CDT operations director, School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, said: “This is a very welcome recognition of some of the pioneers of an important and fast-growing field of theoretical physics.

“Over the past few decades, the study of topological states of matter has moved on from considering curious features of the quantum theory of insulating magnets to encompass the quantum Hall effect, topological insulators, exotic superconductors, and much more besides.

“Hopes for applications, in quantum computing and in other areas, are high.”