Noyori, Ryoji

Noyori, Ryoji,

1938–, Japanese chemist, D.Eng. Kyoto Univ., 1967. Noyori was an instructor at Kyoto Univ. from 1963 to 1968. He then joined the faculty at Nagoya Univ., where he is a professor and director of the Research Center for Materials Science. Noyori shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with William KnowlesKnowles, William Standish,
1917–2012, American chemist, b. Taunton, Mass., Ph.D. Columbia, 1942. He was a research chemist at the Monsanto Company for his entire career (1942–86).
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 and Barry SharplessSharpless, Karl Barry,
1941–, American chemist, b. Philadelphia, Pa., Ph.D. Stanford, 1968. Sharpless was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970–77 and 1980–90) and at Stanford (1977–80).
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 for the development of catalytic asymmetric synthesis, with the work of Noyori and Knowles focusing on the utilizing the process of hydrogenationhydrogenation
, chemical reaction of a substance with molecular hydrogen, usually in the presence of a catalyst. A common hydrogenation is the hardening of animal fats or vegetable oils to make them solid at room temperature and improve their stability.
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 and that of Sharpless on utilizing oxidation (see oxidation and reductionoxidation and reduction,
complementary chemical reactions characterized by the loss or gain, respectively, of one or more electrons by an atom or molecule. Originally the term oxidation
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). Most molecules in nature exist in chiral forms whose structures mirror each other (see Stereoisomers under isomerisomer
, in chemistry, one of two or more compounds having the same molecular formula but different structures (arrangements of atoms in the molecule). Isomerism is the occurrence of such compounds. Isomerism was first recognized by J. J. Berzelius in 1827.
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), with one chiral form often biologically active and the other inactive. Catalytic asymmetric synthesis is an enzymelike process that can quickly produce an excess of one of these chiral forms; it has applications in the production of industrial biomaterials and pharmaceuticals.