Paul Weiss and Gregory McCarty of Pennsylvania State University have discovered a new chemical state they dub a protopolymer. They laid out chains of phenylene monomers on a crystalline copper surface at low temperature and found that the monomers begin to align and link together. Pairing of molecules has been reported before, but this is the first time extended chains of molecules have been found to interact on a surface in this way. Inevitably, the discovery will have implications for controlling the growth of structures on surfaces with potential applications in nanoscience.