Iconic architect’s sphere of influence extends into chemistry

One of Antoni Gaudí's polyhedral sculptures (right) has inspired a new class of molecules (left)

Scientists in Finland and New Zealand have proposed a new class of hollow all-carbon molecules that emulate models made by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

Probably best known for designing the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Gaudí featured polyhedra in the church’s towers. Dage Sundholm from the University of Helsinki credits one of Gaudí’s polyhedral sculptures as inspiration for the theoretical structures. Expanding edges of carbon molecules resembling the basic polyhedron with acetylene molecules spawned a family of almost spherical carbon cages, which they have named gaudienes.

Along with colleagues at Massey University, Sundholm carried out computer simulations to explore what the gaudienes would be like. The researchers suggest that gaudienes could have interesting properties or at least be easy to functionalise. Time will tell if gaudienes conform to Gaudí’s vision that structures be both aesthetically pleasing and functional.