Manfred Eigen worked on extremely rapid chemical reactions

Manfred Eigen – pioneer in biophysical chemistry

Category : Personalities
Published by : Data Research Analyst, Worldofchemicals.com

Biography & contributions

Manfred Eigen is a German biophysical chemist and Nobel laureate born on May 09, 1927. Eigen is notable chemist worked on Chemistry for work on extremely rapid chemical reactions.

Eigen was the winner of many prestigious awards and medals like Otto Hahn Prize for Chemistry and Physics in the year of 1962, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the year of 1967 for studies on the kinetics of extremely fast running chemical reactions with relaxation methods, Faraday Lectureship Prize in the year of 1977, Lower Saxony State Prize in the year of 1980, Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize in the year of 1992, Helmholtz Medal and Max Planck Research Award in the year of 1994,Lifetime Achievement Award in the year of 2005, Wilhelm Exner Medal in the year of 2011.

In 1954, Eigen began using a method called the relaxation techniques to study extremely fast chemical reactions. These techniques involved disturbing a substance with a sudden burst of energy, such as a pulse of high-frequency sound waves, and then measuring the time it takes the substance to return to its normal state of equilibrium. These reactions lasted only 1/1,000 to 1/1,000,000,000 of a second. This technique was called the relaxation technique in reference to the time it takes to bring the system back to equilibrium. Before Eigen's work came about, scientists had no way of calculating the rates of these reactions. It was for this work that he shared the Nobel Prize.

Eigen later used his relaxation techniques to study complex biochemical reactions. Eigen began his work with fast chemical reactions in the 1950's. Later, he focused his research on figuring out how molecules formed and evolved into the first forms of life on the earth. He proposed that cycles of chemical reactions might have occurred, one reproducing nucleic acids and one reproducing proteins. The nucleic acids contained information to form life but had a limited chemical function, and the proteins ensured chemical function and reproduction of the information contained in the nucleic acids. He also proposed that eventually a number of the nucleic acid cycles and proteins would have come to coexist and form a “hypercycle.” By natural selection, the best hypercycle would have eventually caused the first organism to evolve.

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