One of the best or perhaps the best in his field …. His has enriched all the chemistry according to his groundbreaking work in the molecular recognition and self-organization. Understood the significance of non-covalent interactions in lot of chemical processes to a new level. Early, his studies led him to synthesis cage like a molecule, “each of which can specifically identify and encase various alkaline metals”. These metals depend on the exact structure. We have now called them “host” and “guest” for these inclusion complexes. JM Lehn referred these molecular cage as “Cryptates”. These compounds were the pioneers work in the field of molecular-recognization. Then worked about the selectivity between a receptor and a substrat. After this field was a proof of concept in biology field: DNA.
For these studies, he has got the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Donald Cram and Charles Pedersen in 1987. But, after this first discover, he continued the research on atomic interactions between different molecules and by the low interactions created a new field of chemistry, named “supramolecular chemistry”. This branch of chemistry, deals with complex units resulting from the self-assembly and his organization of several molecular components and are bonded together by intermolecular forces. Here we can see the contrast between traditional molecular chemistry where molecules are created by strong bonds or covalent bonds, an energy about 100 KJ/Mol on the contrary of intermolecular forces for super molecules which are hydrogen bonds, electrostatic field, VDW, coordination which all need energy between 0.1 and 50 KJ/Mol.
But his researches expanded from molecular recognition to supramolecular catalysis and transport processes. It’s a new design of molecular “tool” and components for the molecular electronics and photonics. Recently, he has been involved in labile covalent bonds using imines, boronic acid,….This phenomenon is known nowadays as Dynamic Combinatorial Chemistry or DCC, which is used in biology, catalysis, drugs industries, etc.
What about Jean-Marie Lehn life?
JM Lehn was born in France (Rosheim) in 1939. He studied chemistry which led him to the University of Strasbourg. He made his PhD in the Group of Guy Ourisson and obtained the Dr title in 1963. He went to harvard University for his post-doctoral researches where he worked about the total synthesis of the vitamin B12 in the group of Woodward. After, he returned to Strasbourg and began to investigate in Organic, Physical Chemistry and a little bit about biological processes. He became Professor at the University of chemistry in Strasbourg before called “Louis-Pasteur University” and for some years “Université de Strasbourg UDS”. JM Lehn is the director of the Institut de Science et d’Ingiénerie Supramoléculaires (ISIS) when he worked and has got a lab since 2002 at the 5 floor. He’s has written more than 800 publications ans is member of lot of institutions, academies.
He wrote a book about “Concepts and perspectives in the Supramolecular Chemistry“, ed De Boeck Université. So to know more about this field, I encourage you to read this remarkable book.