In Celebration of Chemistry in Sports. Introducing Olympicene.

01 Aug

Unless you have no interest in sports, or have your head under a stone, you will be aware of the fact that the next Olympics will be held in London in 2012. Peter Scott (one of the editors of ChemSpider SyntheticPages) and I were recently discussing how much of a role chemistry plays now in modern sports. I’m a runner, cyclist, swimmer and overall sporting type of guy and depend on wicking materials to keep me cool, nutritional support to get me through my 100-150 mile bike rides in a day, glide stick to “stop me chafing” (ow!) and graphite grease to silence the rattling chain on my bike. In fact it doesn’t matter what sport I am doing it is easy to notice the influence that chemistry has on my improved performance at my tender age of, ahem, just over 40 (and holding, for a while now).

I was reminiscing with Peter that Sir Graham Richards and I were chatting about pyrenes about a year ago and we lamented on how Benzo[CD]pyrene, shown here, looks just like the Olympic rings. There is another rather well known “Olympic molecule” of course, already captured on Wikipedia and named Olympiadane. It looks rather complex to synthesize and personally I think the benzopyrene looks a lot more like the Olympic rings so I attached the synonym Olympicene to it! In fact, if you search ChemSpider using the name Olympicene you will find it.

In a recent discussion about our online crowdsourced database of syntheses, ChemSpider SyntheticPages,(and not distracted at all by the conversation about the Olympics going to the UK next year!!!)  I mentioned again to Peter the molecule Olympicene and he searched ChemSpider to find it. We agreed that it would be fun to know how easy it would be too synthesize it and if it was done it would be a good synthesis to add to ChemSpider SyntheticPages. That was enough to trigger Peter into action and chat with one of his colleagues to see if he can make it.

And so it starts…the trials and tribulations of how to synthesize the chemical Olympicene will be captured on ChemSpider SyntheticPages step by step. We’re not sure how complex a synthesis it will be..time will tell. It will be great to add the analytical data to ChemSpider too as it gets generated..including all the intermediate reaction steps and associated data. ChemSpider and CSSP were designed to support projects like this so it will be a fun story to watch it work through.

If YOU have any thoughts about good synthetic approaches for what seems like a simple molecule post them on this blog. Actually, why not try synthesizing yourself and add your syntheses to SyntheticPages!? Every contribution is issued a DOI for your publication list!

It might be ideal to get a  number of synthetic approaches posted on ChemSpider SyntheticPages and see which one is the best! Watch this space. Also, I’ve set up a Twitter account to capture the progress at @Olympicene. Enjoy!


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.

Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


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