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Chemists synthesize Saturn-shaped molecule

Flat, macrocyclic host captures fullerene guest with CH–π interactions

by Bethany Halford
June 17, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 25


The nanoSaturn viewed looking at its equator.
Credit: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.

Saturn and its extraordinary rings have captivated scientists since they first started peering through telescopes. Chemists have now created a molecular homage to this heavenly body by building a so-called nanoSaturn out of just carbon and hydrogen (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2018, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201804430).

A space-filling model of the nanoSaturn.
Credit: Shinji Toyota
Space-fillling model of the nanoSaturn shows the close associates of the ring and the fullerene in this supramolecular complex.
A structure of the nanoSaturn shows a fullerene captured within a ring composed of substituted anthracene units.
Credit: Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.

A team led by Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Shinji Toyota synthesized the supramolecular complex by trapping a C60 within a large, hydrocarbon ring composed of substituted anthracene units. Scientists previously captured fullerenes with belt-type hydrocarbons or disk-like thiophene-based macrocycles, but this is the first example of a nanoSaturn with a disk-type hydrocarbon ring. To make the molecular assembly, the chemists simply combine the hydrocarbon ring system with C60, and weak CH–π interactions hold the system together. The researchers determined the nanoSaturn’s structure using X-ray crystallography (shown). Toyota notes the macrocyclic compounds might be useful for extracting or sieving fullerenes, but that wasn’t his main motivation. “What is most exciting for me,” he says, “is that this beautiful and harmonized shape can arouse the curiosity of any observer as planet Saturn does.”


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