Show students how scientists used 100 molecular units to construct this novel synthetic carbohydrate

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A starter slide to get your students thinking about synthetic and natural polymers.


Multicoloured building blocks

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Building on the knowledge of synthetic DNA and peptides, scientists have turned their minds to synthetic carbohydrates.

The longest ever synthetic carbohydrate, a sugar with 100 monosaccharide units strung in a linear chain, has been made by chemists in Germany in just eight days. The team used an automated synthesiser for 201 of the 203 steps. The 100-mer beats the previous record holder, a 92-mer created by chemists in 2017.

Automated synthesisers can easily prepare long peptide or DNA sequences – polymers with 200 individual units are nothing unusual. But automated polysaccharide synthesis is lagging behind because there are more things that can go wrong. Each monomer addition creates a new stereocentre that needs to be controlled, and the polymer can produce linear as well as branched sequences.

Fixed on a solid support, the growing polymer goes through a four-step process for each monomer addition. The 100-mer took 203 steps, yielding 2% of the product in just 188 hours.

Read the full story in Chemistry World.