A team of researchers from the Universitat Jaume I made up of Susana Ibáñez, Cristian Vicent and Eduardo Peris, has obtained a new type of molecules, which combines traditional chemical bonds (covalent, ionic) with a new type of bond known as ‘mechanical bond’.
This type of unprecedented molecule consists of the assembly of two molecules in the form of a clamp (or ‘clip’), so that both are mechanically intertwined, thus forming a new structure that the authors have named ‘clippane’. “The use of advanced analytical techniques that combine mass spectrometry with ionic mobility has been fundamental, both for the identification of this new nanoscale molecular topology, as well as for understanding its behaviour”, highlights Dr. Cristian Vicent, from the Central Scientific Instrumentation Service of the UJI. Dr. Susana Ibáñez, from the Institute of Advanced Materials (INAM), points out that “at the beginning, we did not understand the behaviour of this type of molecule because we did not imagine that we had a system linked by mechanical bonds”.
This new type of molecule falls within the scope of mechanically interlocked molecules (MIMs). It should be remembered that, in 2016, Jean-Pierre Sauvage, J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa received the Nobel Prize precisely for their research in this new field of chemistry. “Conceptually, it is important because not only have we obtained a new molecule, but we have identified a new type of topology with a range of properties that remain to be discovered», explains Eduardo Peris, professor of Inorganic Chemistry, member of the INAM of the UJI and director of the team.
The results have recently been published in the renowned magazine Angewandte Chemie International Edition in an article that has been classified as ‘very important paper’ (VIP). This published article has had great media coverage in the scientific community. Thus, reviews about clippanes have been published in the prestigious journal Science, in the newsletter of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Chemistry World, and in Chemistry Views, which is the newsletter that highlights the results achieved by members of the European chemical societies.
This work, which Peris explains is part of basic research work, questions the very concept of a molecule. By fixing a mechanical link that prevents the separation of the two components that make up the clippane, “it questions whether we are talking about one or two molecules, because until now we have been talking about a molecule as an entity of atoms linked by covalent and non-mechanical bonds”.
“The fact that this molecule could not be imagined until now opens a wide range of possibilities, with applications that today we are unable to imagine in any field”, explains Peris. In this way, the work carried out by the UJI team raises new options in research for its application in any field, from nanomedicine to engineering or energy storage, among many others.