A great childhood pleasure is playing with Legos and marveling at the variety of structures you can create from a small number of basic elements. Such control and variety of superstructures is a goal of polymer chemists, but it is hard to regulate their specific size and how the pieces fit together.
This week in ACS Central Science, researchers report a simple system to make different nano-architectures with precision.
Using a variety of highly efficient chemical transformations and other techniques to ensure high yields and purity, Stephen Z. D. Cheng, Yiwen Li, Wen-Bin Zhang and coworkers designed systems to create giant molecules with 'orthogonal' ends, meaning that they only fit together with a specific partner just like Legos.
Depending on the relative amounts of different building-block molecules, these molecules come together in different superstructures—ranging from cubes to wheels and sandwiches.
Eventually, they could be employed in device-creation, where it is crucial to have precise control over the positions of the components.
Explore further: Polymer researchers create a new class of hybrid materials (Update)
Wei Zhang et al. Toward Controlled Hierarchical Heterogeneities in Giant Molecules with Precisely Arranged Nano Building Blocks, ACS Central Science (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.5b00385