A team from the University of Vermont has developed a 1.7 nanometer wrench powered by molecular chirality (where two molecules are identical in terms of composition, yet opposite in form). Chemist Severin Schneebeli experimented with Anthracene (found in coal), and then assembled “C-shaped strips” of molecules like Lego blocks. The wrench holds its shape well when exposed to different solvents and temperatures, making it effective in tinkering with chemicals “in the same way a mechanic can turn an exterior bolt to adjust the performance inside an engine.”
Since a “chirality-assisted synthesis” approach was used, this technology can lead to new innovations in complex synthetic materials, which includes medicine and polymers. The team at UVM is now looking for ways to modify its current shape, possibly a spiral that is extremely strong and flexible, which could lead in the development to new materials with properties that don’t exist in any other just yet.