Published on May 28th, 2012 | by James Ayre


Olympic Molecule Built, Smallest Possible 5-Ringed Structure

May 28th, 2012 by


Researchers have built and imaged the smallest possible five-ringed structure. It is about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair and looks like the Olympic rings.

Created by the Royal Society Of Chemistry (RSC), the University of Warwick, and IBM Research, it has been captured in a picture using state-of-the-art imaging techniques.

“When doodling in a planning meeting, it occurred to me that a molecular structure with three hexagonal rings above two others would make for an interesting synthetic challenge,” said Professor Graham Richards CBE, RSC Council member.

“I wondered: could someone actually make it, and produce an image of the actual molecule?”

Two chemists at the University of Warwick, David Fox and Anish Mistry, then used “clever” synthetic organic chemistry to build olympicene.

“Alongside the scientific challenge involved in creating olympicene in a laboratory, there’s some serious practical reasons for working with molecules like this,” said Dr Fox.

“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.

“For example these types of molecules may offer great potential for the next generation of solar cells and high-tech lighting sources such as LEDs.”


Researchers at the Physics of Nanoscale Systems Group at IBM Research–Zurich then imaged the olympicene with unprecedented resolution by using a technique known as atomic force microscopy. Using this technique, the IBM researchers imaged a single olympicene molecule that is just 1.2 nanometers in width. That’s about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.

“The key to achieving atomic resolution was an atomically sharp and defined tip apex as well as the very high stability of the system,” explains IBM scientist Dr. Leo Gross.

“We prepared our tip by deliberately picking up single atoms and molecules and showed that it is the foremost tip atom or molecule that governs the contrast and resolution of our AFM measurements.”

Source: University of Warwick
Image Credits: IBM Research – Zurich, University of Warwick, Royal Society of Chemistry, Olympic Rings via Shutterstock

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

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  • This is a great job and the researches need to know every possibilities for different approaches. For instance, in Matrix/DNA Theory there are a lot of suggestions for continuing the experiments. This five rings molecule like graphene is the atomic compound that better represents the building blocks of galaxies as closed systems. For being a opened living system is missing an electro-magnetic vortex and a carbon atom between the two rings. If you see the formulas at the theory’s website, the vortex is F1 and the atom link is F5. The models had predicted 30 years ago the useful properties of graphene for technology and now is suggesting spetacular applications for organic chemistry.

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