The world's tightest knot is too small to see

A group of researchers have achieved a new record, but you can't see it with the naked eye. Scientists with the University of Manchester have formed the tightest knot to ever grace our blue marble, at least as far as humans are aware, and they did so using molecular strands. Though the final knot is only about 20 nanometers long, it could lead to the creation of new, more advanced materials.

The project was led by Professor David Leigh of the university's School of Chemistry. The aforementioned knot is composed of braided molecular strands, of which eight were used in a 192-atom closed loop. The final result is only about 20 millionths of a millimeter long.

Speaking about the creation, Leigh said:

We 'tied' the molecular knot using a technique called 'self-assembly', in which molecular strands are woven around metal ions, forming crossing points in the right places just like in knitting – and the ends of the strands were then fused together by a chemical catalyst to close the loop and form the complete knot.

The eight-crossings molecular knot is the most complex regular woven molecule yet made by scientists.

While the achievement is notable by itself, it could lead to the creation of stronger materials by using this new molecular structure. One example given are bullet-proof vests, which are presently made of kevlar.

Kevlar is a wonderful material, but the use of this new structure could result in a material that is both lighter and stronger, as well as more flexible, resulting in higher quality and more effective vests. The potential applications for these materials are likewise vast, but it'll be a while before we see any of them come about.

SOURCE: EurekAlert