Nobel Prize ceremony
Nobel Prize ceremonyReuters

Three European chemists won this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry, in honor of their work in the field of nanotechnology.

French chemist Jean-Pierre Sauvage of Strasbourg University; Scottish chemist Sir James Fraser Stoddart of Northwestern University; and Dutch chemist Ben Feringa of Groningen University will share in the roughly $1,000,000 prize, after being named at a ceremony Wednesday in Sweden.

The focus of their trio’s work, microscopic machines capable of carrying molecules directly into cells, offers tremendous opportunities for the advancement of medicine.

Such miniature machines, a thousand times thinner than a strand of hair, could be used, for instance, in the targeted destruction of cancer cells, removing the need for lengthy and often dangerous chemotherapy treatments.

Drugs could be selectively placed directly into cells using such nanomachines, opening the door for precision medicinal treatment.

“They have mastered motion control at the molecular scale,” said Nobel committee member Olof Ramstrom.

Dr. Feringa responded to the announcement with surprise.

“I don’t know what to say, I’m shocked. And my second remark was ‘I’m a bit emotional about it.’”