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Olympian feat: Chemists synthesize smallest five-ringed molecule

May 25, 2012|By Thomas H. Maugh II
  • Chemists have made and imaged the smallest possible molecule containing five rings. Called olympicene, it looks like the Olympic rings.
Chemists have made and imaged the smallest possible molecule containing… (IBM Research/Zurich )

In honor of the upcoming Summer Olympics, British scientists have synthesized and IBM scientists in Switzerland have imaged the smallest possible molecule with five rings, an unusual molecule that they have named olympicene. The molecule is just 1.2 nanometers in width, about a hundred thousandth the width of a human hair.

The molecule, composed of 19 carbon atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms, essentially consists of five interlocked benzene rings and was synthesized by chemists David Fox and Anish Mistry of the University of Warwick. "The compound is related to single-layer graphite, also known as graphene, and is one of a number of related compounds which potentially have interesting electronic and optical properties," Fox said.

Physicists at IBM Research in Zurich captured images (registration required) of a single molecule of olymicene. The team used a sensitive technique called noncontact atomic force microscopy that employs a probe that ends in a single atom.

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