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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Tiniest Carbon Sphere Sparks Big Reaction
24 June 1998 7:00 pm
Researchers have isolated a pint-sized spherical carbon molecule, or fullerene, that could turn out to be far more useful than its bigger cousins. Experts say the new fullerene, described in tomorrow's issue of Nature, may be easier to fashion into everything from high-temperature superconductors to high-strength materials.
In 1985 researchers discovered soccer ball-like molecules, made of 60 carbon atoms, that are formally called buckminsterfullerenes. Since then they've turned up a variety of larger all-carbon spheres. Now researchers have isolated a fullerene with just 36 carbons atoms, making it the first member of the family to have fewer than 60 carbons. To do so, University of California, Berkeley, physicists Charles Piskoti and Alex Zettl, along with chemist Jeff Yarger, vaporized carbon in a vacuum chamber containing a whiff of helium. When they boosted the helium concentration, Zettl and his colleagues got scads of C36, which they were able to purify.
Because the carbon atoms in a C36 fullerene must strain to form a sphere, the bonds between atoms are brittle; thus, the molecule is very reactive and quickly decomposes in air. But that could turn out to be a blessing: Linking C36 to other atoms could yield compounds that are more stable than C36 alone, as well as impart useful optical and electronic properties. By contrast, tacking add-ons to C60 typically creates molecules that are far less stable than the original.
The Berkeley group's success is "really heroic," says James Heath, a chemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who helped discover fullerenes: "Every chemistry department in the world has been making fullerenes. Yet, before this not a single bit of evidence ever came forth that you could make something smaller than C60 and stabilize it."