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Chemistry Nobel Prize 2021: Benjamin List, David MacMillan win for asymmetric organocatalysis

The team created a precise new tool for molecular building, which has significantly influenced pharmaceutical research and has made chemistry more environmentally friendly. 

Chemistry Nobel Prize 2021: Benjamin List, David MacMillan win for asymmetric organocatalysis gcw
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New Delhi, First Published Oct 6, 2021, 4:32 PM IST
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The development of asymmetric organocatalysis by Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan earned them the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The team created a precise new tool for molecular building, which has significantly influenced pharmaceutical research and has made chemistry more environmentally friendly. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden, bestows the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Catalysts are essential tools for chemists, but for a long time, experts assumed that there were only two types of catalysts: metals and enzymes. According to the Academy, Benjamin List, a professor at Germany's Max Plack Institute, and David MacMillan, now at Princeton University, independently identified a third form of catalysis in 2000. It is known as asymmetric organocatalysis, and it is based on tiny organic molecules. "This notion for catalysis is as simple as it is clever, and many people have questioned why we didn't conceive of it sooner," says Nobel Committee for Chemistry head Johan Aqvist.

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"Benjamin List and David MacMillan remain leaders in the field and have shown that organic catalysts can be used to drive multitudes of chemical reactions. Researchers can now more efficiently construct anything from new pharmaceuticals to molecules that can capture light in solar cells using these reactions. In this way, organocatalysts are bringing the greatest benefit to humankind," the Academy said in a statement.

"For Alfred Nobel's work, chemistry was the most significant science. Chemical expertise was used to create his innovations as well as the industrial methods he used. Chemistry was the second award category specified in Nobel's bequest," as per the Academy.

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The news comes only one day after the Academy awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi for their revolutionary contributions to our knowledge of complex physical systems. The researchers contributed to a better understanding of global complex processes such as climate.

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