Scientists have created and imaged the smallest possible five-ringed structure – about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair – and you’ll probably recognise its shape. A collaboration between the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the University of Warwick and IBM Research – Zurich has allowed the scientists to bring a single molecule to life in a picture, using a combination of clever synthetic chemistry and state-of-the-art imaging techniques.
The scientists decided to make and visualise olympicene whose five-ringed structure was entered on ChemSpider, the RSC’s free online chemical database of over 26 million records two years ago.
“When doodling in a planning meeting, it occurred to me that a molecular structure with three hexagonal rings above two others would make for an interesting synthetic challenge,” said Professor Graham Richards CBE, RSC Council member. ”I wondered: could someone actually make it, and produce an image of the actual molecule?”
Chemists at the University of Warwick, Dr David Fox and Anish Mistry, used some clever synthetic organic chemistry – the modern molecule designer’s toolbox – to build olympicene. ”Alongside the scientific challenge involved in creating olympicene in a laboratory, there’s some serious practical reasons for working with molecules like this,” said Dr Fox.