The Nobel committee has awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to John Fenn, Koichi Tanaka, and Kurt Wüthrich for their work in developing methods to enable the identification and structural analysis of biological macromolecules.

The 88-year old Fenn, Research Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, USA, and Tanaka, from the Shimadzu Corp, Kyoto, Japan, have been awarded a half share of the prize "for their development of soft desorption ionisation methods for mass spectrophotometric analyses of biological macromolecules."

Although mass spectrometry has long been a tool widely used by chemists, its ability to analyze only relatively small molecules severely restricted its use in the study of biological molecules. But in 1988 Fenn published a method based on electrospray ionization. In this technique the biomolecule begins as a charged particle in a water-rich environment. Subsequent evaporation of the water leaves behind freely hovering ions and these ions are...

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