Scientists are rarely in it for the glory, but they do know how to celebrate a win.
This week, researchers at the University of Manchester are rejoicing over a new Guinness World Record, awarded to them for tying the tightest knot. It’s a feat the team accomplished by braiding multiple strands of molecules.
Led by chemist and professor David Leigh, the breakthrough relies on a new technique that allows scientists to twist molecular strands into tighter and more complex knots than ever before. The research was published in the journal Science earlier this year, and was also included in the prestigious “Molecules of the Year” list compiled by the American Chemical Society in Chemistry and Engineering News.
“I grew up watching Roy Castle and the McWhirter twins [co-founder of The Guinness Book of Records] on the TV programme, Record Breakers,” Leigh told Phys.org. “It’s been 45 years since then, but dedication is what you need if you want to be a record-breaker.”
The new technique also has broader implications: More precise control over molecular knotting patterns will allow scientists to create materials with finely tuned strength and elasticity.
“Some polymers, such as spider silk, can be twice as strong as steel,” Leigh noted as an example. “Braiding polymer strands may lead to new generations of light, super-strong, and flexible materials for fabrication and construction.”