Wed, October 06, 2010
Sci-Tech > Science

Three researchers share 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

2010-10-06 10:04:02 GMT2010-10-06 18:04:02 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Three researchers, American citizen Richard F. Heck, Japanese citizens Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for palladium-catalyzed cross coupling in organic synthesis," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced Wednesday. (AFP Photo)

A member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Staffan Normark announces the winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Stockholm, Sweden, Oct. 6, 2010. (Xinhua/Wu Ping)

Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announce the winners of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Stockholm, Sweden, Oct. 6, 2010. (Xinhua/Wu Ping)

STOCKHOLM, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2010 has gone to Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki for a tool that greatly increases the capacity to create new chemicals.

"The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2010 to Richard F. Heck, University of Delaware, USA, Ei-ichi Negishi, Purdue University, USA, and Akira Suzuki, Hokkaido University, Japan, for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis," the academy's Permanent Secretary Staffan Normark announced Wednesday.

"The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2010 awards one of the most sophisticated tools available to chemists today," a statement from the academy said.

"This chemical tool has vastly improved the possibilities for chemists to create sophisticated chemicals, for example carbon-based molecules as complex as those created by nature itself," the statement said.

Carbon-based (organic) chemistry is the basis of life and is responsible for numerous fascinating natural phenomena: color in flowers, snake poison and bacteria killing substances such as penicillin. This has given mankind new medicines and revolutionary materials such as plastics.

"Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling solved that problem and provided chemists with a more precise and efficient tool to work with. In the Heck reaction, Negishi reaction and Suzuki reaction, carbon atoms meet on a palladium atom, whereupon their proximity to one another kick-starts the chemical reaction," the statement said.

Palladium-catalyzed cross coupling is used in research worldwide, as well as in the commercial production of, for example, pharmaceuticals and molecules used in the electronics industry.

The Nobel Committee members say the three laureates have all worked independently, thus they will equally share the 10 million Swedish kronor (1.47 million U.S. dollar) prize.

Negishi said over the phone he had been seeking this for 50 years, as one of the goals for his research.

"I was extremely happy, I would tell a lie if I say I wasn't thinking of it. I have dreamed of this prize when I came to America where I encountered several Nobel Laureates in Pennsylvania," he said.

Heck, 79, is an American citizen while Negishi is a Japanese citizen but born in 1935 in Changchun, China, when the Japanese occupied Northeast China. He got his Ph.D. in 1963 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Suzuki is a Japanese citizen who, at 80, is the oldest among the three.

This was the third of this year's crop of Nobel prizes, which are handed out annually for achievements in science, literature, economics and peace.

All but one of the prizes were established in the will of 19th century dynamite millionaire Alfred Nobel. The economics award was established by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

On Tuesday, the Nobel Prize in Physics went to two Russian-born scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both working at the University of Manchester in Britain.

Alfred Nobel died childless and dedicated his vast fortune to create "prizes for those, who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind."

The Nobel Prizes have been awarded annually since 1901. Each prize consists of a medal, a personal diploma and a cash award of 10 million Swedish kronor.

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