May 30, 2012 at 3:03 PM ET
What is lauded as the "smallest possible" five-ringed structure has been created and imaged by a team of European scientists who are clearly getting excited for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The structure — a synthetic molecule called olympicene — measures just 1.2 nanometers in width, which is about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair.
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Richard Graham dreamed up the concept while doodling in a planning meeting. "I wondered: could someone actually make it, and produce an image of the actual molecule," he said in a news release.
The short answer is yes.
To do so, he partnered with colleagues at the University of Warwick and IBM-Research, Zurich, who synthesized the molecule, then imaged it using noncontact atomic force microscopy, a technique pioneered by the computer giant in 2009.
In addition to the scientific challenge of creating and imaging the molecule in time for the Olympics, the team says the compound, which is similar to the wonder-material graphene, may have real-world applications in energy and lighting, such as solar cells and LEDs.
Check out the video below for more information on the feat.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.