Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


A Twisted World – Chemists Build a Molecular Banister


Chemists at the University of Basel in Switzerland have succeeded in twisting a molecule by combining molecular strands of differing lengths. The longer strand winds around a central axis like a staircase banister, creating a helical structure that exhibits special physical properties. The results were published in the renowned scientific journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The chemistry of all substances is to a large extent defined by their spatial arrangement. Many molecules can be present in two forms (enantiomers), which behave like a person's right and left hand.

In particular, the organism makes a highly specific distinction between left- and right-handed molecules – a substance can, for example, be extremely active as a drug in one form, while its mirror image is entirely inert. The fundamental understanding of this “chirality”, as it is called, has long been a central component of research in the field of chemistry.

Connecting strands of different sizes

The researchers headed by Professor Marcel Mayor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basel have developed a new approach to contort a small molecule into a form similar in appearance to the banister on a spiral staircase.

At the molecular level, the interlinking of two oligomer strands with different lengths forces to the longer strand to wind around the shorter on its own to balance out the discrepancy in length. This creates a helix with a uniform twisting direction.

As a consequence the entire molecule becomes chiral. The researchers were also able to demonstrate that it is possible to dynamically change the form of the helical molecule from left-handed to right and back again in just a few hours.

“It is not just the structural elegance of this molecule which makes it so unique,” says Mayor. “Above all, it is a completely new way of constructing a continuous helix.”

Efficient procedures for creating chiral compounds generate much interest in basic research and the industrial sector – they can, for example, be used in biological systems research, crop protection chemistry, and the pharmaceutical and fragrance industries. The project was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Original source
Rickhaus, M., Bannwart, L. M., Neuburger, M., Gsellinger, H., Zimmermann, K., Häussinger, D. and Mayor, M.
Inducing Axial Chirality in a “Geländer” Oligomer by Length Mismatch of the Oligomer Strands
Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2014) | doi: 10.1002/anie.201408424

Further information
Prof. Dr. Marcel Mayor, University of Basel, Department of Chemistry, phone: +41 61 267 10 06, email:

Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>