Three pioneers in the development of nanomachines, made of moving molecules, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday.

Molecular machines, the world’s smallest mechanical devices, may eventually be used to create new materials, sensors and energy storage systems, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the prize.

“In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors,” the academy said.

The three scientists — Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa — will share equally in the prize of 8 million Swedish kronor, or about $930,000.

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