Richard R. Ernst
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1991
Born: 14 August 1933, Winterthur, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for his contributions to the development of the methodology of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy."
Prize share: 1/1
Protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus behave like small spinning magnets. Accordingly, atoms and molecules assume a certain orientation in a magnetic field. This can be dislodged, however, by radio waves of certain frequencies that are characteristic for different atoms. Known as resonance frequencies, these are also affected by the atoms' chemical surroundings. As a result, the phenomenon can be utilized to determine the composition and structure of various molecules. To accomplish this, Richard Ernst developed highly sensitive and high resolution methods in the 1960s and 1970s.