What is it about?

This work is about the unusual way water and a simple organic compound namely tetramethylpiperidine react on mixing in a set ratio. A crystalline solid spontaneously forms and this can be seen crystallising in real time as long tubular rods. These can be several centimeters long. When these crystals are contained in a large receptical the crystals move position troughout the day to different parts of the vessel. This is visually beautiful.

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Why is it important?

It's important as life probably started with self assembly involving water and probably a nitrogen base. Similar water channels are found in nature allowing the migration of water into cells. There are many potential uses of this work but a detailed investigation into the proton transport properties is warrented as well as looking at similar hindered bases.


Nature is wonderful This was a seripendous discovery when we saw crystals forming in a high vacuum line when we were drying one of our reaction samples. Nature did all the work. However we should be able to modify the crystals to incorporate substituted piperidines to make organised structures. We would be delighted to work with other interested research groups.

Ian Butler
University of Liverpool

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The spontaneous self-assembly of a molecular water pipe in 3D space, IUCrJ, April 2022, International Union of Crystallography, DOI: 10.1107/s2052252522003396.
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