Wed Sep 24 21:38:15 PDT 2008

NanoKid and a Band of People Shaped Molecules

Does the molecule below look like anything else in The Molecular Universe? Probably not, it is pretty unique. But does it look like anything at all? Well, it is quite clearly a human figure. It is a real molecule, synthesized and characterized by Stephanie Chanteau and James Tour from Rice University in Texas, and called 'NanoKid' by its creators.


Actually Stephanie and James synthesized a whole range of molecules, all resembling people, demonstrating that chemists can create virtually any molecule that they set their minds to. You can read about their work here.

If you have ever connected a molecular modeling kit together to create animals or arbitrary shapes, you will know that molecules make for potentially wonderful 'tinker' toys. Organic chemists get to play with real molecule sized molecules and make their special creations for real on the molecular scale.

The paper describing this work is titled 'Synthesis of Anthropomorphic Molecules: The NanoPutians' which shows imagination. It is the control over molecular architecture that Stephanie and James demonstrated in their work impresses you most, though. Undoubtedly, this level of molecular control will one day contribute to the creation of nanoscale electronic devices. And it is not surprising to learn that Stephanie and James are based at a center for Nanoscale Science.

It may take years, but one day there may be molecule sized switching elements at the heart of electronic devices. When and if that day comes, the computers that make use of such devices will have extraordinarily high numbers of computing (and memory) elements per unit volume and have reasonable power requirements, simply because molecules are so small.

And it is possible that some of the techniques used to create NanoKid will be used to make those electronic devices of the future.

(By the way, hydrogen atoms in the image above have been suppressed. This keeps the image in line with the original publication and this is the way the organic chemists normally look at their molecules. In the case of the NanoKid molecule it also keeps the pelvis region unadorned...).

More information on topical molecules in The Molecular Universe.

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