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French, U.S. Scientists Share Chemistry Nobel

Frenchman Yves Chauvin and Americans Robert Grubbs and Richard Schrock have won the 2005 Nobel Chemistry prize for their development of a technique for making new chemical compounds.

The method, known as olefin metathesis, has become one of organic chemistry's most important reactions. It's been used to make a wide variety of compounds, from pharmaceuticals to fuel additives -- even new material for baseball bats.

The reaction provides a way to rearrange groups of carbon atoms to produce new organic compounds. Chauvin, now at the French Petroleum Institute, developed the method, and Americans Robert Grubbs of Caltech and Richard Schrock of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found ways to make it more stable and efficient.

The three chemists will share the $1.3 million prize.

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Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.