Magazine article Science News

'Buckyball' II: The Game Continues

Magazine article Science News

'Buckyball' II: The Game Continues

Article excerpt

In just a few months, the newly discovered moecule C.sub.60 -- buckminsterfullerene, or "buckyball" for short -- has become the center of a wide range of theoretical and laboratory investigations (SN: 11/23/85, p. 325). This molecular appears to have a geometric structure like the pattern on a soccer ball. Its high degree of symmetry indicates that the molecule is probably quite stable and may have some unusual properties.

The molecule, essentially a hollow sphere, has a diameter of about 7 angstroms. This provides an inner cavity that may be large enough to hold various atoms. Reporting in the Dec. 11 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN SOCIETY SOCIETY, a group of chemists now says it has evidence for the formation of a stable complex consisting of a single lanthanum atom surrounded by a C.sub.60 carbon shell.

In their experiments, chemist Richard E. Smalley and his colleagues at Rice University in Houston used a laser to vaporize spots on a graphite disk impregnated with lantanum ions. The ejected carbon clusters were ionized and carried in a stream of helium gas through a mass spectrometer. The resulting measurements showed the presence of various carbon clusters, several of which included a single lanthanum atom. None of the clusters appeared to pick up a second metal atom.

There's room inside the molecule for atoms as large as uranium, says Smalley. "It's incredible that there should be a stable molecule with such a large vacuum inside," he says. "It's like a little, portable vacuum system." The chemists are finding that some atoms, such as calcium, are easy to get inside the carbon spheres, but others, such as iron, don't seem to fit in very well.

If a way can be founded to synthesize C.sub.60 molecules on a large scale, then "the chemical and practical value of the substance may prove extremely high," the researchers say. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.