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Benjamin List of Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung Receives the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Benjamin List, director at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung, will receive the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with David MacMillan of Princeton University for their work on asymmetric catalysis. They have established for the first time that small organic molecules are suitable as mediators of chemical reactions. Previously, scientists assumed that only enzymes and metals, including often toxic heavy metals or expensive and rare precious metals, could accelerate chemical reactions and steer them in a desired direction. The small organic molecules that Benjamin List and Davin McMillan introduced as catalysts are particularly suitable for asymmetric synthesis: In this process, only one of two enantiomers is formed – i.e. molecules that resemble each other like the left and right hand, i.e. they cannot be spatially aligned. Such molecules are involved in all biological processes and also play an important role as medical agents.