‘Intelligent’ Molecules Achieve Self-Recognition

Now we have to come clean here at Deskarati, after reading this article we were not much wiser than when we started, but we a sure this is more due to our lack of understanding of the subject matter than the description of the discovery.  We know that a number of Deskarati fans have a chemistry background so would hope you guys might make more of it – Deskarati –

Researchers at Lehigh University have discovered high-level molecular self-recognition in dilute aqueous solutions, a level of “intelligence” previously considered achievable only by biological molecules. The researchers studied the structures of the two macroion clusters and discovered that in mixed dilute aqueous solutions, the clusters self-assemble into distinct blackberry structures (and do not form mixed species).

The researchers spent several years exploring solutions of large, soluble ions called macroions. The behavior of these ions is completely different from the behavior of small ions, such as sodium chloride.

Despite being water-soluble and carrying the same type of charge, macroions tend to attract each other with surprising strength and to form very stable, uniform, single-layered hollow spheres known as “blackberry structures.” The structures are common when ions become large, and mimic some biological processes, such as shell formation in the capsid virus.

The team found that, when mixed into the same solution, two different types of 2.5-nm spherical macroions ({Mo72Fe30} and {Mo72Cr30}) with almost identical size, shape and molecular structures tend to form two types of individual blackberries instead of mixed ones.

The result suggests that even in dilute solutions, these two macroions can self-recognize during assembly, the researchers said. The differences in charge density between the two types of macroions play an important role in the recognition as does their surface water mobility difference.

via ‘Intelligent’ Molecules Achieve Self-Recognition.

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2 Responses to ‘Intelligent’ Molecules Achieve Self-Recognition

  1. alfy says:

    A really fascinating piece of work. Jim, don’t be downhearted about your understanding. We have been part of this way before. Let me remind you.

    It follows on the heels of earlier deskarati postings about the origins of life on earth. We recall the work of Miller who was able to show that simple organic molecules could arise spontaneously from electrical discharges in a gaseous atmosphere within weeks. Other work has showed that quite complex organic molecules can arise from the simple “Miller soup”. This work by the people at Lehigh is a further stage along the way where large ions are capable of recognising each other and tend to cluster together.

    The implications of the Lehigh work are that the kinds of association that we are familiar with in complex cellular fluids can actually occur in very much simpler solutions than we had originally thought. These ions could quite well be associated with materials like clays which are complex metal silicates. This leads to the “Cold Flame” hypothesis which I expouded in an earlier posting.

    It is all part of the great story “The Spontaneous Origin of Life Here On Little Old Earth” and the minor tale, “Ballocks To You Fred Hoyle and All The Other Wankers Who Think That Life Came From Outer Space.”

    I hope, Jim, that this provides a little clarity. Steve and George have a far better chemical grasp than I have, and I refer you to them for any highly technical loose ends that I may have left.

  2. Deskarati says:

    Thanks Alfy, I have just re-read the Stanley Miller Post (http://deskarati.com/2011/03/22/stanley-miller/) and it really is interesting. I see you couldn’t resist give poor old Fred Hoyle another kicking. I think I’ll have to do a post on him to see what he’s all about.

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