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Nobel Prize Laureate J. Fraser Stoddart Speaks in Qizhen Global Vision Lecture Series

May 11, 2017


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On the evening of May 9, Prof. J. Fraser Stoddart, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016, delivered a speech entitled “The Mechanical Bond—Minding Art with Science” on Yuquan Campus. Prof. Stoddart, aged 75, shared with the participants his experience in scientific research and encouraged them not to fear failure.

The mechanical bond has been coined to describe the connection between the components of mechanically interlocked molecular architectures. Prof. Stoddart reported molecular Borromean rings. “The Borromean rings are ubiquitous in daily life, such as statues and stained glass in churches,” said Prof. Stoddart.

Prof. Stoddart was fascinated by these shapes. In 1991, his research group coined the term pseudorotaxane to describe the self-assembly of the ring and rod components that precede either catenation or the formation of a rotaxane. Prof. Stoddart used this rotaxane structure to fabricate elevators, molecular muscles and molecular transistors. These transistors are expected to overtake the existing traditional chip technology in computers.

“This is an innovation,” Prof. Stoddart said, “Chemistry can create new research fields. This defining feature distinguishes chemistry from conventional natural and historical sciences; rather, it makes chemistry strikingly analogous to art.”

“Why can I succeed? I think it stems from failure,” said Prof. Stoddart, “It is an extremely demanding task to carry out research into a molecular ring without any electron. Thus, we need to learn from constant failures and keep our curiosity, creativity and vitality.”

“Curiosity and vitality make us persistently innovative. Those who are innovative tend not to be driven by fame or fortune. They do regard their work as a labor of love. This kind of innovation is worth pursuing in our lifetime,” said Prof. Stoddart.

Prof. Stoddart encouraged rising Chinese scholars to experiment with brand-new disciplines. “My research area as a Ph.D. candidate was carbohydrate chemistry rather than super-molecular science, let alone interlocked molecules,” said Prof. Stoddart, “It was in 1967 when I did my post-doctoral work in Canada that I was intrigued by super-molecules thanks to a paper of Pederson, a Nobel laureate in 1987. I made up my mind to do relevant research in this field. I think young scholars should be brave enough to try out on new domains instead of confining themselves to their current field.”