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Nobel special issue features work of 15 Nobel laureates in chemistry

Chemical Physics Letters pairs Nobel-related research with historical perspectives in an open-access edition

The world's greatest prize in science is without doubt the Nobel Prize. Yesterday, Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel took center stage in Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

They were recognized for the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems. These Nobel laureates laid the foundation for the powerful programs that are used to understand and predict chemical processes. Their work is groundbreaking as they managed to combine classical physics with the fundamentally different quantum chemistry. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for the majority of advances made in chemistry today.

[pullquote align="right"]"it is very gratifying to see the quality of these papers being recognized so often through the award of the Nobel Prize to our authors." — David Clary, Editor[/pullquote]

Dr. Karplus and Dr. Warshel have published ground-breaking research in Chemical Physics Letters, a journal published by Elsevier with a history spanning more than four decades.

They are among 15 authors who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work related to their articles in Chemical Physics Letters. In addition, several of these papers were referenced in the Nobel citations.

Now, the work of these 15 laureates is being featured in Chemical Physics Letters' Special Nobel Issue along with historical perspectives written by the laureates or close colleagues explaining the significance of their research. 

This special issue was published yesterday on the occasion of the Nobel Prize ceremony. The articles are all open-access and freely available online.

Of the 15 Nobel laureates, two are highlighted here. Dr. Ahmed Zewail was the first Nobel Prize winner from Egypt, and Dr. Mario J. Molina was the first from Mexico. 

Ahmed Zewail and femtosecond spectroscopy

The Nobel chemistry laureate of 1999, Dr. Ahmed Zewail, was editor of the journal from 1991 until 2007. Dr. Zewail, professor of Chemistry and Physics at the California Institute of Technology, received his award for his studies of the transition states of chemical reactions using femtosecond spectroscopy.

Featured Nobel Laureates

This Special Nobel Issue is an anthology of 14 papers published in Chemical Physics Letters by these Nobel laureates in chemistry:

David Clary, PhDJohn Polanyi | Dudley Herschbach |Yuan Lee | Gerhard Ertl | Rudy Marcus | Bob Curl | Rick Smalley | John Pople | Ahmed Zewail | Jean-Marie Lehn | Mario Molina | Harry Kroto | Alan Heeger | Martin Karplus | Arieh Warshel

The Editor

Professor David Clary, President of Magdalen College in Oxford and an editor of Chemical Physics Letters, selected these articles and invited the authors to submit their perspectives. "As an editor, it is very gratifying to see the quality of these papers being recognized so often through the award of the Nobel Prize to our authors," he said.

Using a rapid ultrafast laser technique (consisting of ultrashort laser flashes), the technique allows the description of reactions on very short time scales — the time scale on which the reactions actually occur. The publication in Chemical Physics Letters came at a critical time in the early days of femtochemistry, propelling the field forward as well as giving it solid roots by engaging theorists who were eager to explore the rich interplay of excited state surfaces. The paper is still well cited as one of the classics in the field.

Mario J. Molina and atmospheric chemistry – the formation and decomposition of ozone

Another popular Nobel Prize winner in chemistry is Dr. Mario J. Molina, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Molina was recognized in 1995 for his work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone. He discovered that chlorine atoms, produced by the decomposition of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) catalytically destroy ozone. His article in Chemical Physics Letters described experimental work concluding that chlorine peroxide (ClOOCl) photolizes in the atmosphere to yield free chlorine atoms. 

Previous work by Dr. Molina's group had suggested that this compound would play a key role in the destruction of stratospheric ozone in the polar stratosphere; it is an intermediate in a catalytic cycle in which chlorine monoxide radicals, produced by the reaction of chlorine atoms with ozone, recombine to yield chlorine peroxide, with photolysis regenerating the free chlorine atoms. Additional laboratory studies of the photolysis of chlorine monoxide conclusively established the ozone destruction mechanism proposed by Dr. Molina's group in their Chemical Physics Letters paper.[divider]

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Rob van DaalenRob van Daalen is Publisher for the portfolio Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at Elsevier and responsible for the journal Chemical Physics Letters. He is based in Amsterdam.



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