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Molecules Spontaneously Form Honycomb 106

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-a-push-in-the-right-direction dept.
Science Daily is reporting that University of California Researchers have discovered a new process in which molecules assemble into complex patterns without any outside guidance. From the article: "Spreading anthraquinone, a common and inexpensive chemical, on to a flat copper surface, Greg Pawin, a chemistry graduate student working in the laboratory of Ludwig Bartels, associate professor of chemistry, observed the spontaneous formation of a two-dimensional honeycomb network comprised of anthraquinone molecules."
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Molecules Spontaneously Form Honycomb

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  • "Honycomb?" (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Typoes in the summary are common enough, but in the title ... and "Honycomb?"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 19, 2006 @05:36PM (#15941888)
    Honeycombs Big?
  • Honycomb? (Score:2, Informative)

    by linguae (763922)

    Honycomb? Honycomb? Honycomb? Me want honycomb? I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Last time I checked, it is honeycomb, with an e.

  • Professor - it's alive!
  • by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin.wickNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 19, 2006 @05:49PM (#15941938)
    This is really awesome, however carbon spontaneously forms many different shapes, not the least of which are C60, nanotubes, and graphite (which has a honeycomb shape). As cool as this is, what part of this is "news?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by NoseBag (243097)
      carbon spontaneously forms many different shapes, not the least of which are C60, nanotubes, and graphite

      There's also that obscure form called diamond.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:25PM (#15942037)

      As cool as this is, what part of this is "news?"

      You must have missed this part:

      Anthraquinone molecules, however, form chains that weave themselves into a sheet of hexagons on the copper surface, forming a network similar to chicken wire.

      Obviously this is big news to farmers who raise little tiny chickens.

      • by apraetor (248989)
        It's not particularly surprising, either. The lone pairs on each oxygen will repel those on adjacent oxygen atoms, causing the interlocking pattern. Similarly, these same electrons will be attracted to the metal surface (copper); since they are on opposing edges of the molecule they will hold it flat against the surface.

        Neat? Sure. I fail to see how this is a new process, however.

        --Matthew
      • Obviously this is big news to farmers who raise little tiny chickens.

        I hereby submit my patent and trademark applications (on /., of course) for NanoNuggets(tm).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damian cosmas (853143)
      I think it's kind of silly, but getting something to self-assemble cooled in liquid nitrogen is a little different than the "spontaneous" formation of fullerenes and whatnot in an electric arc furnace, since lots of things happen spontaneously at 1800 K and the yields are piss-poor. Still, this is nothing new. Zeolites have been self-assembling with large pore sizes for a while now.
    • by dwhitman (105201) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @07:03PM (#15942122)
      carbon spontaneously forms many different shapes, not the least of which are C60, nanotubes, and graphite (which has a honeycomb shape). As cool as this is, what part of this is "news?"
      All the examples you give are covalently bonded molecular structures, where the observed regularity is derived from the symmetry of the orbitals forming the bonds.

      What's cool about this (as near as I can tell from the junior high-school level article) is that the structures are supramolecular, many orders of magnitude larger than the anthraquinone molecules they are made of. The structures seems to be held together only by (weak) van der Waals interactions between the molecules, influenced by the copper substrate. This is interesting and unusual, if you know enough chemistry to appreciate it.

      I'd love to see x-ray diffraction of these layers, to see how the anthraquinones are packing, and how the symmetry of the molecules is reflected in the much larger honeycomb.

    • This is very cool and here's why:

      The holy grail of nanotechnology is the regular arrangement of clusters of atoms. This is the basis of future technologies like quantum computing, light based computing, and efficient solar power to name a few. Currently there is no way to make regular patterns of nanocrystals in arrays that is economically feasable, easy, or quick.

      The discovery of this self assembled arrangement is significant because it suggests that people are getting close to figuring out how to make a
  • importance? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mapkinase (958129) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @05:57PM (#15941963) Homepage Journal
    I am failing to grasp the importance of this. Molecules form regular structures? This have been observed for many types of molecules starting from atoms (metals), small molecules (have you heard of ice) and things as huge as ribosomes (itself 100nm).
    How's this thing is unqiue? In what aspect?

    The answer to this question is probably, huge pores compared to the size of the monomer, but I am still not impressed.
    • To spare you from having to read the article, they spontaniously make a think layer on copper that isn't just a lump (like your examples) but has holes in it. The holes have a patern, the surface now has hexagons on it! If you have questions still, open the article and look at the pictures. Those are molecules (imaged by an atomic force microscope or Scanning tunneling microscope).

      So they made something with a microstructure without doing anything at all. This is "shake and bake" chemistry beyond doubt, but

      • by iggymanz (596061)
        whoopdie doo, plenty of crystaline structures in oranic chemistry have repeating 3D holes and voids too, you should see some crystals made out of viruses, for example. This is totally unimpressive.
      • by mapkinase (958129)
        So it is not the importances and uniqueness of the result, but simplicity of the method. Still not impressed
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This issue seems to be the scale of the self-assembled structure, and its simple origin. The comparison with a ribosome is not to the point. Ribosomes have evolved over about a billion years. In this case, the metal substrate and organic molecule are off-the-shelf, not proprietary. Also, the symmetry group is different from that of nanotubes or buckyballs. Third, the size of the channels makes them suitable for applications such a 3-D nanoelectronic circuitry.

      -- Jonathan Vos Post
  • ...by Post Cereal.
    • by bulliver (774837)
      It's safe from patent, read the article title again: "Molecules Spontaneously Form Honycomb" Another case of this infamous "off by one" error...
  • Stupid (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by adun (127187)
    This is fucking stupid. You'll see experiments like this in any chemical engineering department at any university. Any M.S. student is capable of this kind of (routine) work.

    How about appointing some /. editors with a modicum of scientific knowledge outside of Star Trek and Stephen Hawking books?
    • Why (other than slurring /. editors) is this flamebait? The author is correct in that this is not a high-level experiment. The presumption that this is just a publish-to-publish scientific article is probably correct as well. Someone explain the flame mod.
    • But this was a _successful_ experiment. These are _novel_ structures and, therefore, novel nano-materials which means they beat all those other chemical engineering departments to the discovery. Lots of experiments are routine but give novel data that is useful.

      Just because we knew how to decode the genome doesn't mean it was scientifically useless to do.
  • It's called "self-assembly," and google scholar lists a mere 13,800 results for it. People significantly more well-known (George Whitesides, for example) have been doing this sort of chemistry for decades.

    And word to the wise: the copper surface could easily be an "outside source". Get some self-assembly in the gas phase and then we're talking spontaneous and impressive.
    • by jibster (223164)
      Whats new here is the size of the structures. From the diagram in the article I make out 4-5 molecules per side of the hexigon. That makes a huge area inside with no molecules. The question posed is what combination of surface forces is casuing this. Organisation over that kind of scale has been seen before but never I don't remember ever seeing it in a 2D pattern.

      The significance is we have a new toy molecule. We know from past systems that very minor changes in the electron structure, the HOMO-LUMO
      • by kfg (145172) *
        If nano technology is ever to bootstrap its self its going to be from building blocks like these. Simple systems with simeple rules developing complicated results.

        No, not really.

        A net tied from single fibers is not as complex at one level than a net tied from twisted fibers, but on another level they share identity in complexity, which is to say they both lack it.

        They're both just regular, ordered hexes.

        Yes, it's very useful to be able to make an oqaque shirt that blocks wind and a net the admits light and
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by jibster (223164)
          Your right and I agree completely. If you look at the shape this is only this is not complex in the least. Many materials do this. Is so common I wondered at first why it was news. Then I saw the scale.

          There are a lot more degrees of freedom in this system than in a hexagon with only 1 molecul per side. What would happen if we added 1% of another molecule? Could you engeneer it to only fit in certain locations and modify say, ever third? The starting of a gate-drain-source arranegment?

          OK there's a lot o
          • by kfg (145172) *
            . . .there's a lot of what ifs there. . .

            I guess I'm just being dubious about these, and perhaps a bit "teechy" about any old arrangement of molecules being labeled "nanotechnology." We used to just call this "chemistry." Now it seems as if every bloody enzyme is being called a "nano machine."

            Hey, I've got a "nanotechnology" shirt. It's made out of something they call "polyester."

            Back in the day nanotechnology meant the reduction to the nano scale of macro technology.

            KFG
            • I guess I'm just being dubious about these, and perhaps a bit "teechy" about any old arrangement of molecules being labeled "nanotechnology." We used to just call this "chemistry." Very true, but calling it nanotechnology makes it much easier to get research grants. I would call this nanomaterials, but really we're just arguing about the semantics of what kind of chemistry this is. Now it seems as if every bloody enzyme is being called a "nano machine." ... Back in the day nanotechnology meant the redu
              • by kfg (145172) *
                But enzymes _are_ nanomachines by the definition you use.

                I almost wrote, "A nanomachine has to do something," but thought better of it.

                KFG
  • Sounds like researchers read about snow on wiki : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow [wikipedia.org]
  • NO outside guidance? Then how did the anthraquinone get on the copper? Someone put it there. That sounds like someone helping the process to me...
  • by rannala (876724)
    Spontaneous origin of life, perhaps? Simple viruses aren't that complicated.
  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dan East (318230) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:31PM (#15942056) Homepage Journal
    "Spreading water, an inexpensive and common chemical, on to a flat surface, Dan East, a Slashdot reader with Excellent Karma, observed the spontaneous creation of individual droplets as the molecules self-organized themselves to form larger complex structures."

    Dan East
  • Crappy article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by littleghoti (637230) on Saturday August 19, 2006 @06:59PM (#15942117) Journal
    The article is overly simplified, and reads like the researchers are blowing their own trumpet. If you have a clean metal surface, pretty much anything will stick to it. This will form a stable layer with a regular structure. Whilst it may be the first time anyone has seen anything that big, I would doubt that it is an entirely new mechanism as they claim.
  • "Spreading anthraquinone, a common and inexpensive chemical, on to a flat copper surface, Greg Pawin, a chemistry graduate student working in the laboratory of Ludwig Bartels, associate professor of chemistry, observed the spontaneous formation of a two-dimensional honeycomb network comprised of anthraquinone molecules."


    Wow, just wow. I had to read it four times, how about you?

    "Sounds good spoken" != "Reads well in print"
  • Had to... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Spokehedz (599285)
    Honeycomb big?

    no, no, no!

    Its very small?

    Yea yea yea!

    (BRING BACK FUTURAMA!!!)
  • I'll just give a run down
    Since noone has anything intelligent to say

    hexagonal shapes in nature form an extremely strong object.


    this spontaneous display though pretty may be more important in manufacturing
    \so isnt really important to us.

    you may be able to purchase this at you hardware store in 10years as a glue or major core function of a construction kit.

    .
  • The whole freakin universe forms spontaneously

    http://gravityboy.gootar.com/ [gootar.com]
  • Could the "spontaneity" of the process be useful in space? As the technology is applied to different materials perhaps as a protective covering? Or a growth medium for "Biological cells and tissue" in zero gravity. Certainly the extremes of temperature ("the surface with the molecules was annealed to spread the molecules. During cool-down to the temperature of liquid nitrogen, the hexagonal pattern emerged.") requiried for this phenomenon would be easily reached (but controlled?) in space.
  • I'm not too solid on quinone chemistry. Anthraquinone is planar, all the ring molecules are sp<sup>2</sup> but appears to have 16 pi electrons (not a Huckel number). Although the oxygen hybridization is a little flexible, I'm guessing the molecule's not aromatic but damned close.
    <br>
    <br>
    So does oxidized copper accept a pair of electrons from the anthraquinone or does the metal donate?
  • Comma's... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "Spreading anthraquinone, a common and inexpensive chemical, on to a flat copper surface, Greg Pawin, a chemistry graduate student working in the laboratory of Ludwig Bartels, associate professor of chemistry, observed the spontaneous formation of a two-dimensional honeycomb network comprised of anthraquinone molecules."

    6 Comma's; one butchered, unreadable sentance, and the entire article's like that.

    What happened to the days writers used things such as paragraphs, periods, and semicolons, and grammar? Oh
    • by x2A (858210)
      "6 Comma's; one butchered, unreadable sentance, and the entire article's like that"

      You seriously couldn't read it? I mean, it might have been sloppy, but unreadable? With all the mistakes you made in your own post?

      "6 Comma's [...] What happened to the days writers used things such as paragraphs, periods, and semicolons, and grammar? Oh wait, I know what happened; Some dipshit decided to try to introduce"...

    • by rHBa (976986)
      If I post a badly written article about evolution does that mean Darwin's ideas were bad science? (btw I know that Darwins conclusions have since been superseded) If you're a real chemist and you want to see a more verbose explanation of what these guys have discovered then contact them/their university. Most readers of slashdot aren't chemistry specialists and so the laymans explanation is just fine thank you.
  • ...this result depends on this particular substance. There's no mention of what good this substance is either in general or in the configuration they made it form. So, other than finding yet another of thousands, and like most, good for nothing but a pretty picture, example of physically mediated self-organization, they've found nothing useful, nor proposed any use for it, but got it into Science anyway.

    Seven commas. I win.

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