Crystals of helical polymers are helping to understand their own structures

Xiao-Ming Chen and co-workers at Sun Yat-Sen University, China, have built chiral coordination polymer chains from achiral component parts. Changing the achiral ligands used as the building blocks for these coordination polymers helped the crystals to form.


Perspective views of the chains

Chiral coordination polymers are useful for enantioselective separation and catalysis. They might also find applications as chiral solid materials, particularly for optoelectronics.

The remarkable ligands used by Chen are asymmetric poly-pyridyl molecules. They coordinate to cadmium(ii) ions to form polymers.

As this research area grows, Chen’s team is investigating other similar coordination polymers. Understanding what controls the formation of these chiral polymers and how they crystallise will help in future polymer design.

Robin Forder