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This simulation shows a large molecule hitting a wall

Anggara et al

Breaking the chemical bonds in large molecules to form a desired substance can be a fiddly task, but simply chucking molecules at a wall can get the job done.

Stephan Rauschenbach at the University of Oxford and his colleagues made the discovery, which they call “splat chemistry”, after accidentally firing a complex molecule called Reichardt’s dye at a copper surface.

The team expected the collision to have enough energy to break all the bonds in the molecule, but that wasn’t the case, says Rauschenbach. “Despite this huge …