Stockholm: An American and two Japanese scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry today for finding new ways to bond carbon atoms together, methods now widely used to make medicines and even slimmed-down computer screens.
Richard Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki were honored for their development four decades ago of one of the most sophisticated tools available to chemists today, called
palladium-catalysed cross coupling.
It lets chemists join carbon atoms together, a key step in the process of building complex molecules. Their methods are now used worldwide in commercial production of
pharmaceuticals, including potential cancer drugs, and molecules used to make electronics, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.
Heck, 79, is a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, now living in the Philippines. Negishi, 75, is a chemistry professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette,
Indiana, and 80-year-old Suzuki is a retired professor from Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan.
Negishi told reporters in Stockholm by telephone from Indiana that he was excited to be awakened by a call early today from the Nobel committee, saying he started
dreaming about winning the prize "half a century ago."
"The Nobel Prize became a realistic dream of mine when I was in my 20`s," he said, adding he would use his third of the 10 million kronor (USD 1.5 million) award to continue doing research.
"I may have accomplished maybe half of my goals and I definitely would like to work for at least a couple of more years," Negishi said.
Heck said from his home in the Philippines that the importance of his work wasn`t clear initially.
"It sort of grew as we worked on it,"he said. "As I worked on it longer it appeared it was pretty important and it has developed well since then."
In a televised news conference from Hokkaido University, Suzuki said he was honored by the prize and hoped that it would inspire Japanese youngsters to explore chemistry.
"To my disappointment, not many young people seem to be interested in science, especially chemistry,`` said Suzuki. "A resource-poor country like Japan can only rely on
people`s endeavour and knowledge. I would like to continue my effort to provide help to younger people."
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he spoke to Suzuki on the phone and congratulated him.
"He told me that Japan`s science and technology is at the world`s top level and encouraged me to make good use of the resources," Kan said.
First Published: Wednesday, October 06, 2010, 23:01