‘Intelligent’ Molecules Achieve Self-Recognition


Researchers at Lehigh University have discovered high-level molecular self-recognition in dilute aqueous solutions, a level of “intelligence” previously considered achievable only by biological molecules. The researchers studied the structures of the two macroion clusters and discovered that in mixed dilute aqueous solutions, the clusters self-assemble into distinct blackberry structures (and do not form mixed species).

The researchers spent several years exploring solutions of large, soluble ions called macroions. The behavior of these ions is completely different from the behavior of small ions, such as sodium chloride.

Despite being water-soluble and carrying the same type of charge, macroions tend to attract each other with surprising strength and to form very stable, uniform, single-layered hollow spheres known as “blackberry structures.” The structures are common when ions become large, and mimic some biological processes, such as shell formation in the capsid virus.

The team found that, when mixed into the same solution, two different types of 2.5-nm spherical macroions ({Mo72Fe30} and {Mo72Cr30}) with almost identical size, shape and molecular structures tend to form two types of individual blackberries instead of mixed ones.

The result suggests that even in dilute solutions, these two macroions can self-recognize during assembly, the researchers said. The differences in charge density between the two types of macroions play an important role in the recognition as does their surface water mobility difference.

The Daily Galaxy via kurzweilai.net and Lehigh University

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Image credit: Liu / Lehigh University


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