[APRIL FOOLS' DAY!] Researchers create molecular-scale Rubik's Cube

Researchers create molecular-scale Rubik's Cube
Credit: Laboratory of Atomic Materials / EPFL

Ever since Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik's Cube in 1974, the mathematical puzzle has tested the brains and patience of people of all ages. Two researchers working on molecular manipulation at the Laboratory of Atomic Materials (LAM) set themselves the challenge of making a version at the nanometric scale.

"One evening, we were trying to think of a simple structure to reproduce, and the idea of the Rubik's Cube just came to us," say Almirka Dan Norcev and Yegor Naljapäev, two Ph.D. students at the LAM. Both are master cube-solvers and have taken part in European speedcubing competitions in the past.

A precise assemblage of molecules

To create the tiny replica, the LAM researchers first isolated of six elements – including boron (B), aluminum (Al) and gallium (Ga) – to act as the "colors". Then they linked the atoms to 27 C12N8Mg molecules. Using a , they were able to organize the into a cube about three nanometers wide.

Unfortunately, the LAM's Rubik's Cube can't be played. "The cubes are independent for now. We didn't create axes that would make it possible to rotate the different elements," says Norcev. But in light of their initial success, the two Ph.D. students are now working on a more complex version that uses oxygen and sulfur atoms as connectors. Norcev and Naljapäev hope to demonstrate the new molecular structure during EPFL's open house weekend on 14–15 September 2019.


Explore further

Ever struggle with a Rubik's Cube? Someone has created one that will solve itself

Citation: [APRIL FOOLS' DAY!] Researchers create molecular-scale Rubik's Cube (2019, April 1) retrieved 18 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-04-molecular-scale-rubik-cube.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
14 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

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