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Scientific publication on systems chemistry

06 April 2010
Researchers from the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry have confirmed it: it can really make a difference whether you shake a cocktail or stir it. The research group led by Sijbren Otto recently reported in Science that, when they mix molecules derived from amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), these spontaneously bind to each other to make larger molecules. This process is self-catalysing: once a small amount of the new molecules have been formed, they promote the formation of more of the same molecules. Such self-replicating molecules are believed to have played an important role in the origin of life. While this is not the first synthetic self-replicating system, the work is unique in that the self-replicating molecules organise themselves into nano-scale structures. This organisation at the molecular and supramolecular levels occurs spontaneously, but is very sensitive to mechanical energy provided by shaking or stirring the solution. Shaking favours one particular replicating molecule, while stirring selectively produces another. This work is a leading example of the emerging field of "systems chemistry", where many different molecules and influences come together to produce a specific outcome. In fact Otto moved from the University of Cambridge last year to work at the Centre for Systems Chemistry of the RUG that was founded two years ago.

For more information: dr. Sybren Otto
Last modified:31 January 2017 11.13 p.m.

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