Three U.S. scientists won the Nobel chemistry prize on Wednesday for pioneering work on computer programs that simulate complex chemical processes and have revolutionized research in areas from drugs to solar energy.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, awarding the prize of 8 million crowns ($1.25 million) to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, said their work had effectively taken chemistry into cyberspace. Long gone were the days of modeling reactions using plastic balls and sticks.
"Today the computer is just as important a tool for chemists as the test tube," the academy said in a statement. "Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today."
Chemical reactions occur at lightning speed as electrons jump between atomic nuclei, making it virtually impossible to map every separate step in chemical processes involving large molecules like proteins.