Monday, 3 December 2012

Chemical of the Week: Olympicene

Welcome to another instalment of Chemical of the Week.

This week, we shall have a very brief look at an interesting organic compound.

Let's say that you have an important event coming up, and you would like to commemorate it. You could conceivably make big signs or host a big event, or you could do what Graham Richards and Antony Williams did. With the upcoming 2012 London Olympics coming up, they considered the possibility both synthesising an interesting organic molecule and recreating the Olympic rings on the smallest-of-small scales.

The structure of olympicene.

Going forward a couple of years to 2012, the synthesis was complete, and the first sample of olympicene was prepared. As you can see, the structure of olympicene does indeed bear a striking resemblance to the Olympic rings. More incredible is that by using a technique known as atomic force microscopy, it was possible for scientists to image a single molecule of olympicene, yielding the following picture:

To put this into some perspective, the above molecule is 1.2 nanometres wide. Another way of considering this is that a human hair is approximately 100 micrometres wide (though this does vary considerably). Consequently, a human hair is, by my calculations, 83,333 times wider than a molecule of olympicene.

It is truly incredible that not only are we able to synthesise a wide variety of organic molecules. It is even more incredible, in my mind, that we currently have the technology to image these molecules, and that their structures are as predicted.

If you wish to read more about olympicene and the journey from concept to creation, I highly recommend the post on the ChemConnector blog. As an added bonus, the author, Antony Williams, was one of the two persons who first pondered the existence and synthesis of olympicene.

Until next time,