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Giant Molecules: From Nylon to Nanotubes
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Our lives are dominated by giant molecules, which have remarkable properties, some of which are only just being discovered and exploited by science, though many have long been exploited far more effectively by Nature. Giant molecules dominate our lives – from the proteins and DNA within us to the man-made fibres of our clothes and the many plastics that we use every day. And they are set to have an enormous impact on the future, as scientists and engineers learn from nature (biomimetics), and utilize the full potential of tiny carbon nanotubes. The possibilities may seem like science fiction – a space station tethered to Earth by cables of giant molecules, tiny molecular vehicles carrying and dispensing drugs in our bodies, smart materials that adjust automatically to optimize our comfort, minute computers utilizing the information storage capacity of DNA – but they are the subjects of cutting edge research. Walter Gratzer gives a fascinating account of the discovery and variety of giant molecules, how they come to have their remarkable properties, and how these are used by Nature and increasingly by us, pausing now and again to tell of some of the remarkable characters involved in their discovery and development.