New elements or rechargeable batteries for Nobel Chemistry Prize?

October 5, 2016 by Pia Ohlin
People walk past a statue of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm

The Nobel Chemistry Prize is to be announced on Wednesday, with observers suggesting it could go to gene-editing, the invention of the rechargeable battery or the discovery of new periodic elements.

Sweden's biggest daily Dagens Nyheter tipped scientists at Russian, Japanese and US institutes that added four new elements to the periodic table: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts) and oganesson (Og).

John Goodenough—a 94-year-old US scientist who invented the rechargeable lithium ion battery that is present in cell phones, computers and electric cars—was another of the favourites for the honour, mentioned by Dagens Nyheter and Swedish radio SR.

Also seen as Nobel-worthy was a technique known as CRISPR that can edit parts of the genome of still-developing embryos by cutting out, replacing or adding parts to the DNA sequence.

It was named by influential US journal Science as 2015's breakthrough of the year due to its potential to revolutionise health and medicine.

But it could be too early for the jury to award it a Nobel this year, Dagens Nyheter noted, as a bitter patent dispute is currently being waged over who discovered it first.

Sweden's other main daily Svenska Dagbladet nonetheless also mentioned CRISPR as a possible winner.

US President Barack Obama awards John Goodenough, inventor of the rechargeable lithium ion battery, with the National Medal of Science at the White House in 2013

It also pointed to Hong Kong doctor Yuk-Ming Dennis Lo, the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences.

Lo discovered a technique to detect chromosome abnormalities in unborn foetuses, such as Down's Syndrome, where previous methods could cause a miscarriage.

The speculation will come to an end on Wednesday when the winner or winners are announced at 11:45 am (0945 GMT).

Chemistry, then peace

The chemistry prize is the third Nobel to be announced this week.

On Tuesday, the physics prize went to British scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz for their work in on "topology", a highly-specialised mathematics field studying unusual phases or states of matter which may one day yield superfast and small computers.

On Monday, the medicine prize went to Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan for his pioneering work on autophagy—a process whereby cells "eat themselves", which can result in Parkinson's and diabetes when disrupted.

Nobel Prize for Physics

On Friday, all eyes will turn to Oslo where perhaps the most prestigious of the prizes, that for peace, will be announced.

The Norwegian jury has sifted through an avalanche of nominations this year—a record 376, almost a hundred more than the previous record from 2014.

Among those tipped are the orchestrators of two historic accords: the recent peace deal in Colombia between the government and the leftist FARC rebels, and the Iranian nuclear deal.

In a shock upset however, Colombians rejected the peace deal by a razor-thin majority in a referendum on Sunday, sending the former enemies' chances of securing a Nobel up in smoke, according to experts.

Also mentioned are Russian activist Svetlana Gannushkina, who has championed the rights of migrants and refugees, Syria's civil organisation of emergency responders known as the White Helmets, and Greek islanders who have come to the aid of desperate migrants.

US fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extent of the NSA's surveillance programmes, has meanwhile been nominated for the third straight year.

The economics prize will be announced on Monday, October 10, and the literature prize wraps things up on October 13.

For that prize, the Swedish Academy could tap superstar novelists such as Philip Roth of the US or Haruki Murakami of Japan, or some lesser known writers such as Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse or Syrian poet Adonis.

Explore further: Nobel medicine prize opens 2016 awards season

Related Stories

Nobel medicine prize opens 2016 awards season

October 3, 2016

The 2016 Nobel prize season kicks off Monday with the announcement of the medicine prize by a scandal-tainted jury, to be followed over the next 10 days by the other science awards and those for peace and literature.

Colombia among top picks for Nobel Peace Prize

September 30, 2016

The architects of a historic accord to end Colombia's 52-year war are among the favourites to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize as speculation mounts ahead of next week's honours.

Nobel Peace Prize to be announced in Oslo

October 12, 2012

(AP)—After vetting candidates for seven months, the Norwegian judges for the Nobel Peace Prize will reveal the winner of the coveted award on Friday, capping a week of Nobel Prize announcements.

Recommended for you

Targeting 'hidden pocket' for treatment of stroke and seizure

January 19, 2019

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists ...

Artificially produced cells communicate with each other

January 18, 2019

Friedrich Simmel and Aurore Dupin, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), have for the first time created artificial cell assemblies that can communicate with each other. The cells, separated by fatty membranes, ...

Using bacteria to create a water filter that kills bacteria

January 18, 2019

More than one in 10 people in the world lack basic drinking water access, and by 2025, half of the world's population will be living in water-stressed areas, which is why access to clean water is one of the National Academy ...

Hand-knitted molecules

January 18, 2019

Molecules are usually formed in reaction vessels or laboratory flasks. An Empa research team has now succeeded in producing molecules between two microscopically small, movable gold tips – in a sense as a "hand-knitted" ...

This computer program makes pharma patents airtight

January 17, 2019

Routes to making life-saving medications and other pharmaceutical compounds are among the most carefully protected trade secrets in global industry. Building on recent work programming computers to identify synthetic pathways ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.