I want to know are there any aromatic compounds able to catalyze their own synthesis? Do aromatic compounds with molecules capable of self-replication exist?

P.S.I'm looking specifically for heterocyclic aromatic compounds (preferably containing nitrogen in the ring) capable of self-replication which could self-assemble into sheets of planar structures capable of self-replication. Is such thing possible and are such structures known in modern organic chemistry and/or nanotechnology?

  • $\begingroup$ According to the wikipedia page on autocatalysis, the bromination of acetophenone is autocatalytic. Do you mean a reaction where neither of the reactants is aromatic, but the product is? $\endgroup$
    – Tyberius
    Oct 24 '17 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about autocatalysis or about self-replication which are two related but distinct topics? $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Oct 24 '17 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ I'm asking for an aromatic compound able to catalyze its own synthesis and in the process create a molecule capable of self-replication. Does such a compound exist? $\endgroup$ Oct 24 '17 at 10:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You ask for way too much. We only know one example of self-replicating system (AKA life), and even that we hadn't made ourselves. $\endgroup$ Oct 24 '17 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ May be the one system I'm looking for here and trying to describe now is the simplest version of that self-replicating system you mentioned @IvanNeretin . If that is the case, then, we already know enough about that system! The only question which remains is can we reproduce this evolution in the lab or are we not that far yet? And if we aren't that far how could we get there? $\endgroup$ Oct 24 '17 at 10:30

I recall seeing a system that consisted of two planar components (and I am fairly certain those were aromatic) that could couple to form the product. The self-catalysis consisted of a product molecule acting as a template for two component molecules to absorb to, which was claimed to have increased the reaction rate.

Edit: I have found the system I was thinking about. The Asker may decide for themselves if this fits the bill. The example is given in K. Ariga, T. Kunitake: "Supramolecular Chemistry - Fundamentals and Applications", Springer, 2006, p. 31. doi: 10.1007/b137036. As of this writing, the page in question is available through Google Books and the reference list for the section (2.10) is on the publisher's page. I was not able to definitively select the correct reference and I do not have access to them, anyway. Note that Ariga & Kunitake seem to have up their mind on what to call it:

In this system, [the product] acts as a template for self-replication. It may be surprising that a simple host-guest system like this mimics the fundamental activity associated with life, self-replication.

  • $\begingroup$ I’m pretty sure I know which system you are talking about but unfortunately it doesn’t fit OP’s context. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Oct 24 '17 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan In any event, this may be a starting point. If you have the exact reference, please edit or answer, I could not get it. $\endgroup$
    – TAR86
    Oct 24 '17 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – user7951
    Oct 24 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @TAR86 Unfortunately, I am not able to find the reference you are referring to. I did find the book on Google Books but the page in question was not part of the preview. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Oct 25 '17 at 7:48

You are asking for a very specific, very advanced case namely a compound that:

  • self-replicates on a per-molecule basis
  • associates into sheets; and
  • these sheets again self-replicate

To the best of my knowledge, this is much more advanced than the self-replicating systems chemists have discovered so the answer to your full question is no.

In fact, we can tick off either of bullet points 1 and 2. A number of self-replicating systems have been discovered and published; a full overview is out of scope of this question. Also, self-association is known for many systems. However, there are no systems that perform both and to the best of my knowledge there are also no macro-aggregate sheets that self-replicate as per your outline.


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