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Chemists become molecular sculptors, synthesizing tiny, molecular traps
Date:12/5/2011

After stitching the bristles together, the researchers hollowed out the center of each bottle-brush molecule, leaving behind a structure shaped like a toilet paper tube.

The carving process employed simple but clever chemistry: When building their bottlebrush molecules, the scientists constructed the heart of each molecule using molecular structures that disintegrate upon coming into contact with water. Around this core, the scientists then attached a layer of negatively charged carboxylic acid groups.

To sculpt the molecule, the scientists then immersed it water, in effect hollowing the core. The resulting structure was the trapa nanotube whose inner walls were negatively charged due to the presence of the newly exposed carboxylic acid groups.

To test the tubes' effectiveness as traps, Rzayev and colleagues designed a series of experiments involving a two-layered chemical cocktail.

The cocktail's bottom layer consisted of a chloroform solution containing the nanotubes, while the top layer consisted of a water-based solution containing positively charged dyes. (As in a tequila sunrise, the thinner, water-based solution floats on top of the denser chloroform solution, with little mixing.)

When the scientists shook the cocktail for five minutes, the nanotubes collided with and trapped the dyes, bringing the dyes into the chloroform solution. (The dyes, on their own, do not dissolve in chloroform.)

In similar experiments, Rzayev and his team were able to use the nanotubes to extract positively charged molecules called dendrimers from an aqueous solution. The nanotubes were crafted so that dendrimers with a diameter of 2.8 nanometers were trapped, while dendrimers that were 4.3 nanometers across were left in solution.

To remove the captured dendrimers from the nanotubes, the researchers simply lowered the pH of the chloroform solution, which shuts down the negative charge inside the traps and allows the captured
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Contact: Charlotte Hsu
chsu22@buffalo.edu
716-645-4655
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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