Last updated May 31, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Australians hope to open another dimension in chemistry.
Australian scientists have found a new way of joining groups of atoms into shape-changing molecules they say opens up the possibility of a new area of chemistry and the development of many new drugs, microelectronics and materials.
They are both excited – the last reported discovery of a new way to make isomers was in 1961 – and confident, expecting to have a proof-of-principle and prototype demonstration within 30 months.
“Our team’s advance sits at the same level of understanding as Louis Pasteur’s discovery of chirality – a central feature of most modern molecular science,” said Professor Jeffrey Reimers, a theoretical chemist from The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Shanghai University.
The work was led by University of Sydney PhD candidate Peter Canfield, working with Reimers and his other supervisor, Professor Maxwell Crossley, a synthetic organic chemist at the University of Sydney.
State-of-the-art spectroscopy and computational modelling at the National Computational Infrastructure, in collaboration with researchers at the Australian National University, gave the team confirmation that what they’d synthesised was new.
Range of new materials
The discovery of another form of isomerism means a whole new range of materials could be prepared, either with the same functions as existing one, or with properties currently out of reach.
As well as new types of drugs, other potential applications include new materials that can be manipulated to be switched on or off, polymers with special performance characteristics and possibly new molecular information storage devices.
Reimers said the mathematics of geometry described the fundamental ways in which atoms could be combined and hence all possible types of isomers. “When we looked at this, we noticed a fundamental form which had never been made before,” he said.
The team used nanoscale porphyrin scaffolds developed by Crossley to “host” boron “guest” molecules, resulting in isolable compounds – molecules stable in a bottle at room temperature.
“Porphyrins are very widely used by nature and by designers to grab and transport molecules and energy – we demonstrate new ways of binding guests to make this happen,” he said.
The paper published in Nature Chemistry.