Ben Feringa is the Jacobus van 't Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an Academy Professor and Chair of Board of the Science Division of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. He was 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".
The early introduction of chiroptical molecular switches, based on the design of the first chiral overcrowded alkenes and the demonstration of optically controlled molecular switching and amplification of chirality in mesoscopic systems, 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. This work led to the discovery of the world's first unidirectional molecular rotary motor 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.