Illustration of the layered structure with layers of synthesized material (in gray; the end groups of the molecular chains are marked blue) and ions (red).

Customized bio-synthetics

The Baden-Württemberg Foundation supports collaboration between chemists in Konstanz and Pennsylvania (USA) as part of its programme to promote top-level research

Chemistry is sometimes a matter of finding the right size. One example is bio-synthetics and the fatty acids they are made of: Each fatty acid is made up of molecular chains with a particular length. The lengths and composition of these molecular chains decide which materials the fatty acids can be used to synthesize. If we are able to precisely determine the length of these molecular chains, then we have the tools to synthesize completely new materials, with tailor-made characteristics. The Konstanz-based chemist Professor Stefan Mecking with this team has developed exactly this method. A year ago, they demonstrated how the length of molecular chains in vegetable fats can be doubled in order to reach the length needed to synthesize a desired tailor-made material. His research on multiplying molecular chains is now going a step further: Stefan Mecking will now be working with his colleague from the University of Pennsylvania (USA), Professor Karen Winey, on characterizing the properties of the new synthetics and expanding upon the existing method. Their work will be funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation’s programme to promote international top-level research with 350.000 euros. Read more...