Ryoji Noyori is a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who added functional control to the organic synthesis technique of asymmetric hydrogenation, using complexes of rhodium and ruthenium as catalysts. Ryoji invented an organometallic catalytic compound, called the BINAP ligand, now used in research laboratories and industry worldwide.
Asymmetric hydrogenation is a chemical reaction that adds two atoms of hydrogen to a target, or substrate, molecule. The presence of a BINAP catalyst enables selection of specific functions in the new molecule, leading to the synthesis of new pharmaceutical agents and agrochemicals. In recognition of his invention, Ryoji shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with William Knowles and K. Barry Sharpless.
An advocate of ‘green chemistry’, Ryoji believes that scientists should engage with both politicians and the general public in order to influence policy — especially to encourage the construction of a sustainable society. Since 2003, as President, Ryoji has led RIKEN, a Japanese government-funded, multisite natural sciences research institute with an annual budget of US$800 million.