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Tiniest Machines Win Biggest Prize!

October 5th, 2016

Image of nanocar credit: University of Groningen

Take a piece of hair from your head. Ouch! It may be long, but it’s not very wide.

Three scientists have spent over 30 years of their careers inventing machines that are about a THOUSAND times smaller than the width of your hair strand — so small that they can only be seen with a microscope! And they work!

They’re called nanomachines, and it has earned the three scientists, Bernard Feringa, Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. They are all European but Mr. Stoddart now teaches in Chicago, here in the United States.

The Nobel Prizes are awards given out every year around this time in a few different fields: Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace, and Economics.

It’s a prize so prestigious that some of the most brilliant people don’t dare dream of getting one. Mr. Stoddart thanked hundreds of other scientists from 24 different countries, including many students, to help make this award possible.

He also once brought home a chocolate Nobel Prize for his daughter from a trip to Stockholm where the prizes are headquartered. He’s very excited to have a real one now. The nearly $1 million the winners receive is a nice touch too. 🙂

So what are nanomachines … and what are they good for?

These scientists figured out how to use molecules to build microscopic motors, elevators, muscles and cars … and then get them to move around and control them. That’s amazing!

In the future, nanomachines could help deliver medicine inside a person’s body, or get rid of things that are making us sick.

This video is an example of how a nanomachine can work and what it can be good for (though not part of this year’s winning team).

Mr. Feringa compared their work to when the Wright Brothers flew their airplane for the first time … some people questioned what it was good for. Now we use them all the time.

Previous HTE Kids News stories about Nobel Prize winners:

Youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner ever

The time 27 countries won the Nobel Peace Prize

When another tiny particle won the big prize — this time in Physics

She asked us to Be a Hummingbird and won the Nobel Peace Prize

More articles about this year’s Nobel Prize winners for Chemistry:

Scientific American

The New York Times

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