Science & Tech

Scientists break record for the world's tightest knot

Scientists break record for the world's tightest knot
Adorable Twists For Fashionable Knots
MetDaan / VideoElephant

Imagine the tightest knot on the smallest, thinnest piece of string imaginable… now picture that knot shrunk down almost an infinite number of times to a molecular level – and you’ll be somewhere near comprehending the scale of a new scientific breakthrough.

Scientists have set a new record for the tightest molecular knot ever created, and the size of it is mind blowing.

Measuring just tens of atoms long, experts have assembled a chemical that self-assembles into a knot with the formula [Au6{1,2-C6H4(OCH2CC)2}3{Ph2P(CH2)4PPh2}3] and detailed the findings in a study published in Nature Communications.

The molecule – which is referred to by experts as Au6 – has three crossings, and is referred to as a trefoil. It was created by a team including Professor Richard Puddephatt of the University of Western Ontario.

It is constructed of 54 atoms, which is a total of 15 atoms smaller than the previous smallest organic trefoil knot measured at 76.

Remarkably, it was discovered by accident. Speaking to the New Scientist, Puddephatt explained that two liquids were mixed together to create other molecular structures called catenanes – only, they discovered that some had self-assembled into trefoil knots.

Puddephatt said: “We’ve made many combinations of gold acetylides and phosphine ligands and they’ve never before given a trefoil knot. We hadn’t predicted that this would happen in this case, so it was serendipity.”

To an outsider, this might seem like a technical exercise, but there is a practical application to its creation.

Tying molecules is an incredibly difficult process, and it’s thought that discovering how to do it effectively will eventually help scientists develop greater understanding of DNA and other molecules in the human body which knot naturally.

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