Professor Graham Richards CBE, Emeritus fellow of Brasenose College, has had his vision of a molecular structure with three hexagonal rings above two others realised through a collaborative project between the Royal Society of Chemistry, the University of Warwick and IBM Research. The molecule, which Professor Richards first conceived whilst doodling in a planning meeting, is the smallest possible five-ringed structure - about 100,000 times thinner than a single human hair. It was brought to life using a combination of synthetic chemistry and cutting-edge imaging techniques.
The molecule has been named Olympicene, due to its striking resemblance to the five rings of the Olympic symbol. Professor Richards hopes that, although the molecules may have a commercial application, they will primarily serve to provoke an interest in Chemistry through the link with the Olympics.
As well as coming to Brasenose as an undergraduate, Professor Richards was a Chemistry tutor at the College for over 30 years and chairman of the University's Chemistry Department from 1997-2006. He founded Oxford Molecular, a company which provided software to researchers, and later helped set up Isis Innovation, Oxford's technology transfer company. In 2010 he was listed in the top 100 most important contemporary figures in British science by The Times Newspaper's Eureka magazine and appointed as one of the two Vice-Presidents of the Royal Society of Chemistry. In spring 2011 was elected as a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. He recently published the book 50 Years at Oxford, a personal reflection through a career at the University spanning five decades.
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Image produced by IBM Research - Zurich