Carbon Nanotube Möbius Strip Fashioned: The molecular building blocks of carbon nanotubes can be used to make tiny versions of Möbius strips, which has always been possible with paper. Nanotubes are too small to be manipulated into different shapes since they are so small. A short length of carbon nanotube built from scratch forms a tiny Möbius strip – a tiny surface that originates from a circle that is twisted. As you might imagine, the powerful intramolecular forces at nanometre scales prevent them from being cut into short lengths – called carbon nanobelts.
Carbon nanobelts can, however, be made in one way. In 2017, researchers at Okazaki, Japan’s Institute for Molecular Science, demonstrated that they could be reassembled piece-by-piece from smaller molecular units through chemical reactions. Now Segawa and his team have developed a Möbius strip-shaped carbon nanobelt. To build the strip, they used an odd number of repeat units instead of an even number as they used in the carbon nanobelt building process.
Creating all possible molecular structures is the ultimate goal of organic chemistry, says Segawa. Segawa and his group confirmed with high-resolution spectroscopy that the resulting structure is indeed a Möbius strip after carrying out the modified chemical reactions. Though it might not seem practical at first, the level of precision and effectiveness required to create the carbon Möbius strip could help solve other chemistry and nanoengineering challenges, explains Nicole Grobert at the University of Oxford.
According to Grobert, “the exact application for this Möbius band may not be obvious, even to those who have studied it, but if researchers can extend their magic chemistry to larger systems and achieve ultimate control over carbon systems larger than carbon dioxide, then we could begin to envisage upscaling and scaling to wet chemistry techniques.”.