Molecular threads woven into flexible fabric

Researchers have found a way to weave long-chain organic molecules into an interlacing pattern without irreversibly bonding them together. The resulting molecular ‘fabric’, which has unusual properties, could potentially lead to a variety of other materials with applications from porous crystals and polymer chemistry to information storage. Fabrics made of woven fibres have found uses from clothing to ropes and carpets, because they are both strong and flexible. Chemists would like to be able to weave together molecular chains, but have 'not really learned how to do this', according to Omar Yaghi of the University of California, Berkeley, in the US, who led the team behind the research. In thermoplastic polymers, he explains, the chains lie approximately parallel, sliding past one another when the material deforms. Conversely, in molecular frameworks, the molecules are bonded at the crossing points, producing rigid, inflexible structures.

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