IBM Zurich/U. of Warwick/Royal Society of Chemistry

ScienceShot: Smallest 'Olympic' Structure Sets a Record

In the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics, researchers have created and imaged a five-ringed molecule that mimics the well-known logo of the quadrennial sports spectacular. It would take about 100,000 of the molecules, dubbed olympicene (image), to span the diameter of a human hair. Olympicene has been known since the 1960s, but the team has developed a new way to produce the molecule more efficiently and with less-toxic solvents than with previous techniques. Far from just the smallest-yet version of the five-ringed logo, olympicene is one of a large class of molecules related to graphene, the single atom-thick sheet of carbon whose atoms are arranged in a hexagonal, honeycomb-like structure. This class of molecules could be useful in various electronic devices, including next-generation solar cells or light-emitting diodes, the researchers say. Later this year, the team plans to more fully describe olympicene and its properties, as well as their improved recipe for making it, in a journal paper.

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