Prof. Ben L. Feringa: Science is an Adventure into the Unknown

By Adi Permana

Editor -

Bandung, - At the 61st Anniversary of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) this time, there was a Nobel Prize Laureate, Prof. Ben L. Feringa, who attended the event as one of the honorary doctor and professor who will be inaugurated by ITB. However, not only that, on the same occasion, he also shared about his research and his journey as a scientist to all participants in an general lecture at Sabuga, ITB, Bandung (03/02) entitled with “The Joy of Disocvery”.

Prof. Ben L. Feringa was a scientist who contributed greatly to discovering the world's first man-made molecular motor in 1999 after researching it for 25 years. It was for this great service that he was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry which was predicted by the popular television series The Simpsons in 2011.

Molecular motor is a term for a machine that is made from a molecule’s continuous rotation when it was excited by anyform of energy. The first man-made molecular motor is a molecul that moves based on light energy and is only 1 nm (nanometers) in size. "This is the first time humans have been able to create a molecule that moves with directed and continuous motion on its own. The movement of molecules is an idea inspired by how the moon rotates towards the earth," said Prof. Ben.

Ben, who is also a Professor at the University of Groningen, said that until now there has been no specific application that uses molecular motors, but he believes that the existence of molecular motors can provide a breakthrough in bacterial resistance technology, cancer treatment or other treatments. "Maybe 50 years from now there will be a nano robot created for the human body that is able to inject compounds that can cure disease," he predicted. He believes that molecular motors can be the beginning of the existence of photocontrolled antibiotic compounds. With this type of antibiotic, we can certainly hope that we can fully regulate the movement of antibiotics in the body in accordance with what we want just by using light.

However, at this time, no research has succeeded in finding a way for molecules in the body to get lighting like when the molecule is outside. "Moreover, the exposure of visible light into the body can be dangerous if done continuously, therefore we need infrared light which has a lower energy than visible light and is not harmful to the body," he continued. He also stated that in the future we still need a lot of molecular motor research to answer many problems in this research, for example, one of the most important is the balance of molecular motion.

Not only based on light energy, this research can also be the beginning to make responsive materials based on other responses such as acidity or temperature. From there, not only smart drugs, we can also develop molecular machines and soft robotics. "We (scientists) will be molecular architects and molecular engineers," explained Prof. Ben L. Feringa.

The professor, who was born from a farmer’s relatives, also often conducts research in unique and creative ways that still produce good outcomes. For example, like what he had done when carrying out experiments with students under his guidance. "We take the nano material contained in the cellphone, then put it in a molecular motor and coated with glass. As a result, the material can move automatically and in certain directions," he said.

At the end of his general lecture, Prof. Ben asserted that there is a lot of beauty in the world of science that has not yet been discovered. For this reason, he said that no scientist should be afraid of failure. "We must dare to imagine the unimaginable and undaunted in the face of these three facts, excitements, failures, and uncertainty. Science is an adventure into the unknown, entering an uncharted territory of astonishing beauty, surprises and amazing perspectives, "he concluded.

Reporter: Salsabila Tantri Ayu
Translator: Ferio Brahmana