Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel won this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for laying the foundation for the computer models used to understand and predict chemical processes.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their research in the 1970s has helped scientists develop programs that unveil chemical processes such as the purification of exhaust fumes or the photosynthesis in green leaves.
That kind of knowledge makes it possible to optimize catalysts for cars, drugs and solar cells, the academy said.
“The work of Karplus, Levitt and Warshel is ground-breaking in that they managed to make Newton’s classical physics work side-by-side with the fundamentally different quantum physics,” the academy said. “Previously, chemists had to choose to use either/or.”
Karplus, a U.S. and Austrian citizen, Levitt is a British, U.S., and Israeli citizen and Warshel is a U.S. and Israeli citizen affiliated with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
“In short what we developed is a way which requires computers to look, to take the structure of the protein and then to eventually understand how exactly it does what it does,” Warshel said.
The strength of their methods is that they can be used to study all kinds of chemistry, it said.
“Scientists can optimize solar cells, catalysts in motor vehicles or even drugs, to take but a few examples,” the academy said.AP