The Sceptical Chymist | ACS: Rage for the machine

Published in Chemistry

Yesterday was a good day for talks, and first up on my talk schedule was the symposium in honour of Ben Feringa, who has been awarded the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry. Ben wrote the review article on molecular machines that we published in the first issue of Nature Nanotechnology (you can see it here – free access) and it’s always a pleasure to see him talk.

Colin Nuckolls got the session off to a great start with his talk about molecular electronics, where he puts molecules between two carbon nanotube electrodes and then does all sorts of fancy stuff with them… pH switches, metal-ion gating, photoswitching, biosensing… Next up was Takuzo Aida, who wins the award for snazziest (that is a word, right?) PowerPoint so far – treating us to movie after movie describing his light-driven molecular machines.

Dennis Dougherty was next, reminding us that nature has been making molecular machines for a lot longer than we have – and so is an awful lot better at it that us. Josh did a write-up of this talk in an earlier post (see here), but I wanted to comment on the fantastic delivery, especially the dead-pan definition of what a structure-function relationship is… and then pointing out that we would have probably figured it out eventually! Recalling all the debate (in the blogosphere at least) about last year’s chemistry Nobel prize, it was interesting to hear Dougherty say that, “crystallography is physics”.

And then, Ben rounded out the session with his talk about molecular machines and motors. I also caught up with him later at the RSC reception and, with a little arm-twisting, he has agreed to do a ‘Reactions’ piece for the blog (well, he can’t say ‘no’ now, can he?).


Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

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