A 2-nanometer-high Solomon's knot

A 2-nanometer-high Solomon's knot

Summary: UCLA chemists have built a molecular Solomon's knot at the nanoscale. The Solomon's knot is composed of two rings that interlace each other four times, with alternating crossing points that go over, under, over and under as one traces around each of the rings. This nano-version is roughly 2 nanometers high by 1.2 nanometers wide. And what would it be useful for? The project's leader offers a refreshing answer: "There is often a connection between the beauty and elegance of a chemical structure and its potential usefulness, and this Solomon knot structure is quite beautiful and elegant." Good luck to her!

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UCLA chemists have built a molecular Solomon's knot at the nanoscale. The Solomon's knot is composed of two rings that interlace each other four times, with alternating crossing points that go over, under, over and under as one traces around each of the rings. This nano-version is roughly 2 nanometers high by 1.2 nanometers wide. And what would it be useful for? The project's leader offers a refreshing answer: "There is often a connection between the beauty and elegance of a chemical structure and its potential usefulness, and this Solomon knot structure is quite beautiful and elegant." Good luck to her!

How was this made possible?

"The secret of our success is the careful selection of metal ions and solvents," revealed J. Fraser Stoddart in the journal Angewandte Chemie. "Although various molecular species compete with each other in solution, the Solomon's knot wins out during the crystallization process simply because it crystallizes better."

Personally, I have a hard time to imagine Stoddart doing any research by now. He must live like an entrepreneur managing many projects. This is for that we should move to an UCLA news release, UCLA chemists make molecular rings in the shape of King Solomon's Knot, a Symbol of Wisdom.

But before going further, below is a picture of a real mosaic image of King Solomon’s knot (Credit: Courtesy of Joel Lipton, from the book "Seeing Solomon's Knot," by Lois Rose Rose). UCLA chemists have made, at the nanoscale, molecular interlocked rings in the shape of this knot.

Solomon's Knot

This research work was led by Cari Pentecost, who works for the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) managed by Stoddart. I don't want to enter too much in the self-assembling methods used to build these nanoscale knots. I prefer to select what I find refreshing in a young scientist.

The Solomon's knot is carved, painted, sculpted, stitched, crocheted, knitted, inlaid and beaded in cultural relics from Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, according to Lois Rose Rose, author of "Seeing Solomon's Knot" and a UCLA graduate. The design, which is found in numerous buildings, can be seen in the floor tiles and on the wooden ceilings of UCLA's Powell Library and on the outside architecture of UCLA's Haines Hall and Moore Hall.
"Here I am, making molecules of these Solomon's knots, and everywhere I go on the campus, they are staring me in the face or I am walking into them," Pentecost said.
Speaking of the excitement of nanoscience, Stoddart said, "We have to try to rediscover the spirit of the Renaissance, when there were no boundaries. Nanoscience is a replay of previous industrial revolutions. In the 21st century, people will start to appreciate what a nanoparticle or nanowire is, just as in the past they embraced the invention of the wheel or the highway."

For 'more' information, this research work has been published by the international edition of Angewandte Chemie under the name "A Molecular Solomon Link" (Volume 46, Issue 1-2, 2007. Pages 218-222, Published Online: 17 Nov 2006). Here is a link to the abstract -- or should I write 'lack of abstract.'

Sources: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. news release, via EurekAlert!, December 15, 2006; UCLA news release, January 10, 2007; and various other websites

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