Yves Chauvin, 74, from the Institut Français du Pétrole in Rueil-Malmaison, Robert Grubbs, 63, from California’s Caltech and Richard Schrock, 60, at MIT in Massachusetts will share the 10 million kronor prize equally.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences pinpointed the scientists’ achievement in the “development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis”.
Metathesis reactions cause atom groups to change places, and, as the Academy put it, “can be compared to a dance in which the couples change partners”. The process allows new molecules to be built for use in pharmaceuticals and advanced plastics materials.
Yves Chauvin explained in 1971 how metatheses reactions function and what types of metal compound act as catalysts in the reactions.
Nineteen years later, Richard Schrock was the first to produce an efficient metal-compound catalyst for methasesis. And in 1992 Robert Grubbs developed an even better catalyst, stable in air, which has found many applications.
The Nobel Committee said that the Laureates’ contributions to the field have allowed synthesis methods to be developed which are more efficient, simpler to use and more environmentally friendly.
“This represents a great step forward for “green chemistry”, reducing potentially hazardous waste through smarter production,” said the Committee.
“Metathesis is an example of how important basic science has been applied for the benefit of man, society and the environment.”