Building artificial self-assembling cubes helps us understand how biological systems function," said Professor Shuichi Hiraoka, leader of the laboratory at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences where the boxes were designed, built, and analyzed.
Investigations by Hiraoka's team contribute to chemical understanding of how natural molecules might self-assemble and reveal techniques for mimicking those processes in the future.
Each side is about one-four-thousandth the size of a human blood cell.
The weak forces holding the sides of the cube together make the box slightly flexible, so it adjusts to best accommodate guest molecules based on their size, shape, and atomic charge.
Researchers build the tiny box out of molecules of hexaphenylbenzene.
The exact process of self-assembly remains a mystery," said Hiraoka.