Liverpool scientists construct molecular 'knots'

Jul 20, 2010
Liverpool scientists construct molecular 'knots'
The molecular `knots' have dimensions of around two nanometers

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have constructed molecular 'knots' with dimensions of around two nanometers -- around 30,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Most molecules are held together by chemical bonds between atoms - 'nano-knots' are instead mechanically bonded by interpenetrating loops. Liverpool scientists have managed to create nanoscale knots in the laboratory by mixing together two simple starting materials - one a rigid aromatic compound and the other a more flexible amine linker.

This is an unusual example of 'self-assembly', a process which underpins biology and allows complex structures to assemble from more simple building blocks. Each knot is 'tied' three times: that is, at least three must be broken to untie the knot. A single knot is a complex assembly of 20 smaller molecules.

Professor Andrew Cooper, Director of the University's Centre for Materials Discovery, said: "I was amazed when we discovered these molecules; we actually set out to make something simpler. A complex structure arises out of quite basic building blocks.

"It is like shaking Scrabble tiles in a bag and pulling out a fully formed sentence. These are the surprises which make scientific research so fascinating."

The experimental work was led by Dr Tom Hasell, a Postdoctoral Researcher, who recognized that the data in an experiment to create organic nanocages was anomalous. In particular, the mass of the molecules was twice as high as expected, a result of the complex mechanical interlocking of two molecular sub-units. The team is now focusing on the practical application of these molecules and similar structures - for example, to build molecular 'machines' which can trap harmful gases and pollutants such as carbon dioxide.

The research, which was published in the journal Nature Chemistry, forms part of a broader five-year programme focusing on the synthesis of for applications such as and conversion.

Explore further: Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material

Related Stories

Building blocks of the future

Apr 06, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Professor Varinder Aggarwal is no ordinary builder. He and his team in the School of Chemistry have just discovered a new technique that could hasten the development of new drugs for today’s ...

New Self-Assemble Building Blocks for Nanotechnology

Aug 19, 2004

University of Michigan researchers have discovered a way to self-assemble nanoparticles into wires, sheets, shells and other unusual structures using sticky patches that make the particles group themselves together in progra ...

Team finds most complex protein knot ever seen

Sep 20, 2006

An MIT team has discovered the most complicated knot ever seen in a protein, and they believe it may be linked to the protein's function as a rescue agent for proteins marked for destruction.

Recommended for you

The simplest element: Turning hydrogen into 'graphene'

Dec 16, 2014

New work from Carnegie's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene ...

Future batteries: Lithium-sulfur with a graphene wrapper

Dec 16, 2014

What do you get when you wrap a thin sheet of the "wonder material" graphene around a novel multifunctional sulfur electrode that combines an energy storage unit and electron/ion transfer networks? An extremely ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gunslingor1
not rated yet Jul 20, 2010
Very very interesting. I wonder what material properties it has.. what appliacations... interesting molecule...tell me more!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.