Former Staff member wins Nobel Prize!

Stoddart DScThe 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to the former Sheffield University Lecturer, sir Fraser Stoddart.

Sir Fraser shared this prestigious accolade with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Bernard L. Feringa “for the design and synthesis of molecular machines.”

Sir Fraser joined the University of Sheffield in 1970 as a lecturer of chemistry before being promoted to reader in 1982. He left the University in 1990 to take up a position at the University of Birmingham before moving to the USA, where he is currently Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

However, it was research undertaken at Sheffield, which forms the basis of his Nobel Prize. This research built on the ground breaking research in the field of supramolecular chemistry, performed earlier by J.P. Sauvage.

Sir Fraser’s highly cited 1991 paper (see right) outlines the creation of a molecular shuttle along a class of molecules known as rotaxanes. These are molecules where a ring has been threaded through a chain which cannot escape as the ends are blocked by bulky carbon chains called “stoppers”.

The conclusion of Sir Fraser’s work noted that this ring could be moved along the chain between different sites. The generation of a shuttling motion in this way led to further classes of molecules which performed extraordinary feats of molecular motion. For example, further research performed after Sir Fraser left Sheffield was to use a similar methodology in constructing molecules which could be used as computational memory.

The departure of Prof. Stoddart in 1991 has not meant that there is no more research in this area in Sheffield. Indeed, research continues into supramolecular chemistry at the University to this day in the research groups of Prof. Mike WardProf. Lee Brammer, and Prof. Jim Thomas.