Ben Feringa

Ben Feringa

Ben Feringa in 2015
Born Bernard Lucas Feringa
(1951-05-18) May 18, 1951
Barger-Compascuum, Netherlands
Residence Groningen, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Fields Organic Chemistry
Materials Science
Institutions University of Groningen, 1984–present
Royal Dutch Shell, 1979–1984
Alma mater University of Groningen
Thesis Asymmetric oxidation of phenols. Atropisomerism and optical activity (1978)
Doctoral advisor Hans Wijnberg
Known for Molecular switches/motors, Homogeneous catalysis, stereochemistry, photochemistry
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Chemistry (2016)[1]
Spouse Betty Feringa

Bernard Lucas "Ben" Feringa (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈbɛrnɑrt ˈlykɑs ˈbɛn ˈfeːrɪŋɣaː], born 18 May 1951) is a Dutch synthetic organic chemist, specializing in molecular nanotechnology and homogenous catalysis. He is the Jacobus van 't Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences,[2][3] at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry,[4] University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an Academy Professor and Chair of Board of the Science Division of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences.[5] He is awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".[1][6]


Feringa was born as the son of farmer Geert Feringa (1918–1993) and his wife Lies Feringa née Hake (1924–2013). Feringa was the second of ten siblings in a Catholic family. He spent his youth on the families farm, which is directly on the border with Germany, in Barger-Compascuum in the Bourtange moor. He is of Dutch and German descent. Among his ancestors is the settler Johann Gerhard Bekel. Together with his wife Betty Feringa, he has three daughters. He lives in Paterswolde near Groningen.[7]

Feringa received his MSc degree with distinction from the University of Groningen in 1974.[8] He subsequently obtained a PhD degree at the same university in 1978, with the thesis titled "Asymmetric oxidation of phenols. Atropisomerism and optical activity".[9] Following a short period at Shell in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, he was appointed as lecturer at the University of Groningen in 1984 and Full Professor, succeeding Prof Wijnberg, in 1988. His early career was focused on homogenous catalysis and oxidation catalysis, and especially on stereochemistry with major contributions in the field of enantioselective catalysis, including monophos ligand[10] used in asymmetric hydrogenation, asymmetric conjugate additions of organometallic reagents, including the highly reactive organolithium reagents and organic photochemistry and stereochemistry. In the 1990s, Feringa's work in stereochemistry led to major contributions in photochemistry, resulting in the first monodirectional light driven molecular rotary motor[11] and later a molecular car (a so-called nanocar) driven by electrical impulses.[12]

Ben Feringa holds over 30 patents and has published over 650 peer reviewed research papers to date, cited more than 30,000 times and has an h-index in excess of 90.[13] He has guided over 100 PhD students over his career.[14]

Contributions to research

Feringa’s research achievements range from fundamental contributions in modern stereochemistry and chirality to the rapidly developing field of molecular nanotechnology and dynamic molecular systems with seminal contributions to organic synthesis, asymmetric catalysis, molecular recognition and self-assembly. Probably the most widely known work that Feringa has performed involves molecular switches and motors, which have been centered on stereochemistry, asymmetric catalysis and dynamic molecular systems. His team at the University of Groningen has pioneered the control and use of dynamic functions and molecular motion.

The early introduction of chiroptical molecular switches,[15] based on the design of the first chiral overcrowded alkenes [16] and the demonstration of optically controlled molecular switching and amplification of chirality in mesoscopic systems,[17] lead to molecular rotary motors in which chirality plays a critical role in achieving the same function achieved by nature, for example, the unidirectional rotation of retinal in rhodopsin.[18] This work led to the discovery of the world’s first unidirectional molecular rotary motor[11] and this work has been laying the ground-work for a key component of future molecular nanotechnology i.e. nanomachines and nanorobots powered by molecular motors. Feringa’s design and synthesis of nanomolecular machines, specifically molecular switches and molecular motors, have initiated major novel approaches towards complex and dynamic chemical systems and the dynamic control of function.

Applications of molecular switches developed in his group include responsive materials and surfaces,[19] liquid crystals,[20] electrochromic devices for optoelectronics,[21] photo-switchable DNA as a molecular memory stick,[22] responsive gels,[23] polymers,[24][25] and light-switchable protein channels[26] for nanoscale drug delivery systems, anion sensing, responsive catalysts and photopharmacology as well as entirely novel approaches using responsive drugs toward anticancer agents, antibiotic treatment and antibiotic resistance, and biofilm formation. Interfacing molecular motors with the macroscopic world by surface assembly on gold nanoparticles[27] and a macroscopic gold film,[28] has shown that the motor functions while chemically bound to a surface, a key result for future nanomachines such as a molecular conveyor belt. Experiments that involve doping liquid crystals with molecular motors demonstrate that the motion of the motor can be harnessed to make macroscopic objects rotate on a liquid crystal film[29] and drive molecular systems out-of-equilibrium. Several of these discoveries were selected for the list of most important chemical discoveries of the year by Chemical & Engineering News.

In 2011, molecular ‘nanocar’,[12] a molecule that contains molecular motor-based wheels and was shown to move on a solid surface upon subjection to electric current from an STM tip, was highlighted in international daily newspapers & magazines worldwide and selected by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as one of the 10 major discoveries in sciences worldwide. James Tour furthered the technology by demonstrating that a nanocar containing molecular motors can move on a surface after exposure to light [30] as opposed to electrical stimuli from an STM tip. Towards the future discipline of systems chemistry, the development of a multistage chiral catalysts [31] which comprises an integrated supramolecular system that brings together molecular recognition, chirality transfer, catalysis, stereoelectronic control and enantio-selectivity while all these processes can be enabled or disabled via an internal motor function, moves the design and application of molecular motors to a whole new level of sophistication.

Aside from molecular motors and switches, Feringa's work has crossed many disciplines and includes the use of chiral electromagnetic radiation to generate enantioselectivity, low molecular weight gelators, imaging porphyrins with STM, drying induced self-assembly, organic synthesis, CD spectroscopy, asymmetric catalysis, exploring the origins of chirality including the possibility of an extraterrestrial source and various aspects of surface science including surface modification, surface energy control and porphyrin allayers.

Honours and awards

Feringa is member of many chemical and scientific related societies: In 1998, Feringa was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC). In 2004, he was elected Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Feringa is an elected Member, since 2006,[32] and Academy Professor, since 2008, of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. In addition, Feringa is a former President of the Bürgenstock Conference in 2009, Switzerland, and an elected Member of the Academia Europaea since 2010. In 2013, he was appointed as Council Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. On 13 October 2016, Feringa was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society.[33]

In recognition to his contributions to synthetic methodologies and catalysis, Feringa was given the Novartis Chemistry Lectureship Award 2000-2001. A large part of Feringa's research career has focused on molecular nanotechnology and especially molecular photochemistry and stereochemistry. His contributions in these areas have been recognised in research awards including Körber European Science Prize in 2003, the Spinoza Prize in 2004, and the Prelog Gold Medal in 2005 (ETH-Zürich), Switzerland,[34] He won the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry of the American Chemical Society in 2007, USA, the European Research Council Advanced Grant in 2008, and the Paracelsus Award of the Swiss Chemical Society, in 2008.[35]

Feringa furthermore was awarded the Chirality Medal for distinguished contributions to all aspects of stereochemistry in 2010, the Solvias Ligand Contest Award (shared with John Hartwig, Yale University (USA), the Organic Stereochemistry Award in 2011 of the Royal Society of Chemistry, UK, and the Decennial Van‘t Hoff Medal in 2011 of the Genootschap ter Bevordering van de Natuur-, Genees-, en Heelkunde, in the Netherlands.

Feringa's contributions to the molecular sciences have been recognized with the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, the Nagoya Medal of Organic Chemistry,[36] the 2012 Grand Prix Scientifique Cino del Duca,[37] and the Humboldt award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2012, Germany.

In 2013, he won subsequently the Lily European Distinguished Science Award, the Nagoya Gold Medal in Nagoya, Japan, the Yamada-Koga Award in Tokyo, Japan, the Royal Society of Chemistry Award for distinguished service, and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Medal of the Polish Chemical Society.

He has written several invited review articles and book chapters for a number of prestigious journals and books including Chemical Reviews, Accounts of Chemical Research, Angewandte and the main textbook in the field of circular dichroism, Comprehensive Chiroptical Spectroscopy.[38]

He won the Theodor Föster Award of the German Chemical Society (GDCh) & Bunsen-Society for Physical Chemistry in 2014, Germany,[39] and the Arthur C. Cope Late Career Scholars Award of the American Chemical Society in 2015. In November 2015, he was the recipient of the "Chemistry for the future Solvay prize",[40] which was awarded for "for his work on groundbreaking research on molecular motors, a research field that paves the way to new therapeutic and technological applications with nanorobots."[40]

It was announced on 5 October 2016 that Feringa will jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, for their work on molecular machines.[1][41] Feringa had been considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize for some time, with The Simpsons including him in a list of candidates in 2010.[42]

In 2008, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands,[43] and on 23 november 2016 he was promoted to Commander of the same Order by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.[44]

Professional activities

Ben Feringa has served as editorial board member for several journals published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, including Chemical Communications (until 2012), the Faraday Transactions of the Royal Society, and is Chair of the Editorial Board of Chemistry World. He is the founding Scientific Editor(2002-2006) of the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry. In addition he is an editorial (advisory) board member for the journals Advanced Synthesis and Catalysis, Adv. Phys. Org. Chem., Topics in Stereochemistry, Chemistry, an Asian Journal published by Wiley, and advisory board member for the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society published by the American Chemical Society.

Feringa is a co-founder of the contract research company Selact (now a part of Kiadis), which was originally established to provide services in the area of organic synthesis but later developed high throughput screening methods.


  1. 1 2 3 Staff (5 October 2016). "The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  2. "University of Groningen".
  3. "University of Groningen".
  4. "Stratingh Institute for Chemistry".
  5. "Ben Feringa". Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  6. Chang, Kenneth; Chan, Sewell (5 October 2016). "3 Makers of 'World's Smallest Machines' Awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry". New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  7. See German and Dutch Wikipedia.
  8. Prof. B.L. (Ben) Feringa - website of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
  9. Asymmetric oxidation of phenols. Atropisomerism and optical activity.
  10. Van Den Berg, M.; Minnaard, A. J.; Schudde, E. P.; Van Esch, J.; De Vries; A. H. M.; De Vries, J. G.; Feringa, B. L. (2000). "Highly enantioselective rhodium-catalyzed hydrogenation with monodentate ligands". Journal of the American Chemical Society. 122 (46): 11539–11540. doi:10.1021/ja002507f. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  11. 1 2 Feringa, Ben L.; Koumura, Nagatoshi; Zijlstra, Robert W. J.; van Delden, Richard A.; Harada, Nobuyuki (1999). "Light-driven monodirectional molecular rotor". Nature. 401 (6749): 152–155. doi:10.1038/43646. PMID 10490022.
  12. 1 2 Kudernac, Tibor; Ruangsupapichat, Nopporn; Parschau, Manfred; Maciá, Beatriz; Katsonis, Nathalie; Harutyunyan, Syuzanna R.; Ernst, Karl-Heinz; Feringa, Ben L. (2011). "Electrically driven directional motion of a four-wheeled molecule on a metal surface". Nature. 479 (7372): 208–211. doi:10.1038/nature10587. PMID 22071765.
  13. "". Webofscience(TM). Thomson Rueters. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  14. "Professor of Chemistry Ben Feringa supervises his 100 th PhD student". University of Groningen. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  15. B.L.Feringa, W.F. Jager, Lange, E.W. Meijer, Chiroptical Molecular Switch, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1991, 113, 5468-5470
  16. B.L.Feringa, H. Wynberg, Torsionally distorted olefins - resolution of cis-4 and trans-4,4'-bi-1,1',2,2',3,3'-hexahydrophenanthrylidene, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1977,99, 602-603
  17. N.P.M. Huck, W.F. Jager, Lange, B.L. Feringa, Dynamic control and amplification of chirality, Science 1996, 273, 1686
  18. Strambi, A.; Durbeej, B.; Ferre, N.; Olivucci, M. (22 November 2010). "Anabaena sensory rhodopsin is a light-driven unidirectional rotor". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (50): 21322–21326. doi:10.1073/pnas.1015085107.
  19. Carroll, GT; London, G; Fernandez-landaluce, T; Rudolf, P; Feringa, BL (2011). "Adhesion of Photon-Driven Molecular Motors to Surfaces via 1,3-Dipolar Cycloadditions: Effect of Interfacial Interactions on Molecular Motion". ACS Nano. 5: 622–630. doi:10.1021/nn102876j.
  20. van Delden, RA; Koumura, N; Harada, N; Feringa, BL (2002). "Unidirectional rotary motion in a liquid crystalline environment: Color tuning by a molecular motor". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 99: 4945–4949. doi:10.1073/pnas.062660699.
  21. Areephong, J; Hurenkamp, JH; Milder, M; Meetsma, A; Herek, JL; Browne, WR; Feringa, BL (2009). "Photoswitchable Sexithiophene-Based Molecular Wires". Organic Letters. 11: 721–724. doi:10.1021/ol8028059.
  22. Mammana, A; Carroll, GT; Areephong, J; Feringa, BL (2011). "A Chiroptical Photoswitchable DNA Complex". Journal of Physical Chemistry B. 115 (40): 11581–11587. doi:10.1021/jp205893y.
  23. de Jong, Jaap; Lucas, LN; Kellogg, RM; van Esch, JH; Feringa, BL (2004). "Reversible optical transcription of supramolecular chirality into molecular chirality". Science. 304 (5668): 278–281. doi:10.1126/science.1095353.
  24. Pijper, D; Feringa, BL (2007). "Molecular Transmission: Controlling the Twist Sense of a Helical Polymer with a Single Light-Driven Molecular Motor". Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. 46 (20): 3693–3696. doi:10.1002/anie.200604941.
  25. Carroll, GT; Jongejan, MGM; Pijper, D; Feringa, BL (2010). "Spontaneous generation and patterning of chiral polymeric surface toroids". Chemical Science (4): 469–472. doi:10.1039/C0SC00159G.
  26. Kocer, A; Walko, M; Meijberg, W; Feringa, BL (2005). "A light-actuated nanovalve derived from a channel protein". Science. 309 (5735): 755–758. doi:10.1126/science.1114760.
  27. Van Delden, RA; ter Wiel, MKJ; Pollard, MM; Vicario, J; Koumura, N; Feringa, BL. "Unidirectional molecular motor on a gold surface". Nature. 2005 (437): 1337–1340. doi:10.1038/nature04127.
  28. Carroll, GT; Pollard, MM; van Delden, RA; Feringa, BL (2010). "Controlled rotary motion of light-driven molecular motors assembled on a gold surface". Chemical Science. 1 (1): 97–101. doi:10.1039/C0SC00162G.
  29. Eelkema, JJR; Pollard, MM; Vicario, J; Katsonis, N; Serrano Ramon, B; Bastiaansen, CWM; Broer, DJ; Feringa, BL (2006). "Rotation of a microscopic object by a light-driven molecular motor". Nature. 440 (7081): 163. doi:10.1038/440163a.
  30. "Light-induced Translation of Motorized Molecules on a Surface". ACS Nano. 2016. doi:10.1021/acsnano.6b05650.
  31. Wang, J.; Feringa, B.L. (2011). "Dynamic control of chiral space in a catalytic asymmetric reaction using a molecular motor". Science. 331: 1429–1432. doi:10.1126/science.1199844.
  32. "Ben Feringa". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  33. Ben Feringa benoemd tot erelid KNCV - website of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society
  34. "Laboratorium für Organische Chemie (LOC)".
  35. "Paracelsus Prize". Swiss Chemical Society. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  36. "Nagoya Medal of Organic Chemistry".
  37. "La Fondation Simone et Cino del Duca".
  38. Mammana, A; Carroll, GT; Feringa, BL (2012). "Circular Dichroism of Dynamic Systems: Switching Molecular and Supramolecular Chirality". Comprehensive Chiroptical Spectroscopy. 2: 289–316.
  39. "Deutsche Bunsengesellschaft für Physikalische Chemie".
  40. 1 2 "Professor Ben Feringa, Laureate 2015 "Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize"".
  41. Davis, Nicola; Sample, Ian (2016-10-05). "Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa win Nobel prize in chemistry - as it happened". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  42. "Los Simpson predijeron dos premios Nobel hace seis años". El Observador (in Spanish). October 14, 2016.
  43. "Lintjes 2008 University of Groningen".
  44. "Nobel laureate Ben Feringa now Commander in the Order_of_the_Netherlands_Lion".

External links

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