Chicken wire (chemistry)

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Buckminster­fullerene "Bucky ball" with a chicken wire-like chemical structure
Chicken wire

In chemistry the term chicken wire is used in different contexts. Most of them relate to the similarity of the regular hexagonal (honeycomb-like) patterns found in certain chemical compounds to the mesh structure commonly seen in real chicken wire.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons[edit]

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or graphenes—including fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, and graphite—have a hexagonal structure that is often described as chicken wire-like.[1][2][3]

Hydrogen bonded (dashed) complex between melamine (blue) and cyanuric acid (red)

Hexagonal molecular structures[edit]

A hexagonal structure that is often described as chicken wire-like can also be found in other types of chemical compounds such as:

Hydrogen-bonded "chicken wire" of boric acid.
A molecule drawn in "chicken wire notation". This molecule is named tetrahydrocannabinol and is found in Marijuana.

Additional information[edit]

Bond line notation[edit]

The skeletal formula is a method to draw structural formulas of organic compounds where lines represent the chemical bonds and the vertices represent implicit carbon atoms.[9] This notation is sometimes jestingly called chicken wire notation.[10][11][12]

Placeholder for organic compounds[edit]

Chicken wire is sometimes used as a placeholder name for any organic compound, similar to the use of the name John Doe.[citation needed]

Chemical structure of the fictional molecule 1,2-dimethyl-chickenwire

Chemical joke[edit]

It is an old joke in chemistry to draw a polycyclic hexagonal chemical structure and call this fictional compound chickenwire. By adding one or two simple chemical groups to this skeleton, the compound can then be named following the official chemical naming convention. Examples are:

A "chicken wire surface plot" of n,n-Dimethyltryptamine

Surface plots[edit]

In computational chemistry a chicken wire model or chicken wire surface plot is a way to visualize molecular models by drawing the polygon mesh of their surface (defined e.g. as the van der Waals radius or a certain electron density). [13]


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