Nobel Prize for Green Chemistry

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«The making of molecules is a difficult art. Benjamin List and David Macmillan received the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a new precise tool for molecular manufacturing: organocatalysis. How does this work

2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Benjamin List and David WC Macmillan were assigned “for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”, a new catalysis technique that allows the use of organic molecules with a simpler and more effective process. This branch of chemistry primarily uses simple organic molecules to produce important products of pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food interest in a sustainable manner.

But who are the two respected scientists?

benjamin list Born in 1968 in Frankfurt, Germany. He received his PhD from Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany in 1997 and is currently director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany.

David William Cross Macmillan Scottish-born chemist born in 1968. He taught chemistry at Princeton University, where he was also chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2010 to 2015.

List and Macmillan’s research was awarded to a new technique that the two researchers developed, called organocatalysis. This technique allows molecules to be combined together to obtain new molecules, thereby preventing contamination during the reaction. Thanks to this technology it is possible to achieve significant impact in the development of, for example, new molecules of medicinal interest, new generation solar cells or more efficient batteries as well as functional eco-friendly technology for green chemistry.

as stated in Prize Motivation «The making of molecules is a difficult art. Benjamin List and David Macmillan received the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of a new precise tool for molecular manufacturing: organocatalysis. This had a major impact on pharmaceutical research and made chemistry green. Many research fields and industries depend on the ability of chemists to create molecules capable of producing elastic and durable materials, storing energy in batteries or preventing the progression of diseases. This task requires catalysts, which are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions without being part of the final product. Catalysts are therefore fundamental tools for chemists, but researchers have long recognized that there are, in principle, only two types of catalysts available: metals and enzymes. Benjamin List and David Macmillan were awarded the Nobel Prize because in 2000 they independently developed a third type of catalysis, named asymmetric organocatalysis based on small organic molecules.

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The note continues how «organic catalysts have a stable structure of carbon atoms to which more active chemical groups can be attached. These often contain common elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur or phosphorus. This means that these catalysts are both environmentally friendly and economical to produce. The rapid expansion in the use of organic catalysts is mainly due to their ability to drive asymmetric catalysis.

Organocatalysis has therefore evolved at an astonishing pace since 2000, showing that organic catalysts can be used to drive a multitude of chemical reactions, reactions that make something even more efficient and benefit all humanity. can work.

A prize, says Nausica Orlandi, president of the National Federation of Orders of Chemists and Physicists, who “in the figures of science, chemists and physicists, become the driving force for the development of an economy and a climate-affected society and environment. Void which Opens to the future guarantees not only a production that takes into account the life cycle of the product and its reuse or recycling, but also that ensures sustainable, innovative production processes with reductions in consumption and raw materials. affects”.

Elsa Ciancalepore

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