Oct 10, 2013

    Chemistry modellers win Nobel prize

    THREE molecular chemists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry yesterday for devising computer simulations that are used to understand and predict chemical processes.

    Austrian-born American theoretical chemist Martin Karplus, South African-born American biophysicist Michael Levitt and Israeli-American professor of chemistry and biochemistry Arieh Warshel were honoured "for the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems", the jury said.

    Their prize-winning work has helped develop computer models mirroring real life, "which have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today".

    As a result, powerful computer programs can be used to predict complex chemical processes, providing pharmaceutical engineers and manufacturing chemists with a fast-track way to solve problems. These processes can take place in a fraction of a millisecond, defeating conventional algorithms that try to map them step by step.

    The chemists' contribution was to combine classical physics with quantum physics in their model.

    The Nobel panel said: "The strength of the methods that Dr Karplus, Dr Levitt and Dr Warshel have developed lies in the fact that they are universal."

    Dr Karplus, 83, Dr Levitt, 66, and Dr Warshel, 72, all work at United States universities.