Scientists announced that they have succeeded in tying the tightest knot ever. They used molecules that they have twisted in eight crossings creating a structure resembling a Celtic knot.
This sounds more impressive when you find out that scientists have so far succeeded in tying only a few molecular knots with a simpler structure. Learning how to create more knots at a molecular level can provide the manufacturing of stronger materials. Imagine what such tight and small knots can do.
Jean-Pierre Sauvage, who won last year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, tied the first molecular knot in 1989. His knot was incredibly simple. It had a trefoil formation and it looked like a three-leaf clover. Only after 25 years did humanity succeed again in tying another molecular knot.
Mathematics proved that tying such knots is possible. There are billions of ways in which they can be weaved, but chemicals are harder to manipulate and to be put in such formations. They need to be compatible to bond with each other and create knots.
Some other molecular knots have been tied over the years, but they were not so intricate. They involved only two strands and a little more than three crossings. This new knot is the tightest and most complicated of all. It has three strands and eight crossings.
The process of creating the structure was not simple. Researchers put the three molecular strands in a test tube in order to tie themselves up. Afterwards, they wrapped the strands around metal ions, forming crossing points in the right places. In the end, they used a catalyst that sealed the entire formation together and formed the knot.
In order to understand the complexity of the tying process, one must know the actual scale. The molecules were just 192 atoms long. This means 500 times smaller than a blood cell. And yet, they succeeded in creating such a complex and tight knot.
The creation of such knots paves the way for materials with incredible properties. For instance, a bulletproof vest made up of molecular knots would mean a lighter and more flexible material which at the same time is stronger than Kevlar. These knots may have applications that we cannot even conceive at the moment, in fields like genetics or medicine. The future is bright and innovative technologies are on their way.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons