Money Matters - Simplified

'Olympic rings' molecule olympicene in striking image

Olympicene Molecule

Olympic rings enters into science and gets successfully captured by researchers to show its stunning beauty.

A team of researchers, based at IBM Research Zurich, announced its first success with a molecule called pentacene, five linked hexagonal rings of carbon all in a line. The molecule - just over a billionth of a metre across - gets its name, Olympicene, because its five linked rings resemble the Olympic symbol.

It was first made by collaborators at the University of Warwick in the UK.

They teamed up with IBM researchers, who in 2009 pioneered the technique of single-molecule imaging with its non-contact atomic force microscopy. Thus, researchers have succeeded in taking a stunning image of Olympicene.

University of Warwick researchers Anish Mistry and David Fox undertook the task of developing a chemical recipe for the molecule, and took preliminary images of it using a technique called scanning tunnelling microscopy.

But no approach gives such detailed images of single molecules as non-contact atomic force microscopy, in which a single, even tinier molecule of carbon monoxide is used as a kind of record needle to probe the grooves of molecules with unprecedented resolution.

The images show linked ring structures that are reminiscent both of the Olympic rings and a great many compounds made from rings of carbon atoms, including the "miracle material" graphene.

Professor Graham Richards CBE, former head of Oxford University's chemistry department and member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) council, should be considered the one to earn the credit of first conceiving the idea to create a more Olympic-themed molecule. After the successful venture, he quips that olympicene's greatest contribution to chemistry would be to bring more students into it.

"Molecules of this nature could conceivably have commercial use, but my own feeling is that above all we want to excite an interest in chemistry provoked by the link with the Olympics," he said.