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Did You Know?

“I Shall Call Him Mini-Me‡”

In an attempt to engage young students in chemistry, James Tour, of Rice University, and colleagues designed and synthesized a series of molecules that he dubbed “NanoPutians” (Figures 1,2,3).

Figure 1. Synthesis Steps of the Upper Body of the NanoPutian [3]. (Image courtesy of Killiannaylor [4].)


Figure 2. Synthesis Steps of Lower Body of the NanoPutian [3]. (Image courtesy of Killiannaylor [5].)

 


Figure 3. Attachment of Upper Body to Lower Body [3]. (Image courtesy of Killiannaylor [6].)

These molecules, being anthropomorphic in structure, get their name from nano, as they are only 2 nanometers tall, and Lilliputian, the term given to the inhabitants of the island Lilliput from Gulliver’s Travels [1]. If you recall from reading Gulliver’s Travels, the inhabitants of the island are tiny humans, approximately one-twelfth the size of an average human being [2], so the name James Tour chose fits exceptionally well. There are many variations of these molecules. Different head structures are used to represent an athlete, pilgrim, jester, scholar, baker, and the list goes on and on. These so-called NanoProfessionals (Figure 4) are created using microwave irradiation to incorporate various diols (with the structure of the diol determining the resulting NanoProfessional). 

Figure 4. NanoProfessionals [3]. (Image courtesy of Killiannaylor [7].)


The molecules have no useful chemical purpose in the lab; however, using them as a tool in the classroom has resulted in a significant increase in understanding of chemical concepts by children and an increase in their interest in the sciences [3].

‡ Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Dir. Jay Roach. Perf. Mike Meyers. 1999. New Line Cinema. DVD.

Author: Josh Miller, BA, is a Process Quality Scientist at IDT.

References

  1. Chanteau SH, Tour JM. (2003) Synthesis of Anthropomorphic Molecules: The NanoPutians. J Org Chem, 68(23):8750–8766.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. Lilliput and Blefuscu. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilliputian. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)
  3. Wikipedia contributors. Nanoputian. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanoputian. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)
  4. Killiannaylor. File: Synthesis of a NanoPutians Upper Body FIXED -2.png. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Synthesis_of_a_NanoPutians_Upper_Body_FIXED_-2.png. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)
  5. Killiannaylor. File: NanoPutians Lower Body ACS 2(FIXED).png. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NanoPutians_Lower_Body_ACS_2(FIXED).png. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)
  6. Killiannaylor. File: Chemdraw Attachment upper body lower body.png. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chemdraw_Attachment_upper_body_lower_body.png. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)
  7. Killiannaylor. File: Chemdraw Nanokid.png. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chemdraw_Nanokid.png. (Accessed October 2, 2013.)