Spitzer finds solid buckyballs in space

Feb 22, 2012
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has detected the solid form of buckyballs in space for the first time. To form a solid particle, the buckyballs must stack together, as illustrated in this artist's concept showing the very beginnings of the process. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have, for the first time, discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space. Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form in the cosmos.

Formally named buckministerfullerene, buckyballs are named after their resemblance to the late architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. They are made up of 60 arranged into a hollow sphere, like a . Their unusual structure makes them ideal candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth, including , medicines, water purification and armor.

In the latest discovery, scientists using Spitzer detected tiny specks of matter, or particles, consisting of stacked buckyballs. They found the particles around a pair of stars called "XX Ophiuchi," 6,500 light-years from Earth, and detected enough to fill the equivalent in volume to 10,000 Mount Everests.

"These buckyballs are stacked together to form a solid, like oranges in a crate," said Nye Evans of Keele University in England, lead author of a paper appearing in the . "The particles we detected are miniscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs."

Buckyballs were detected definitively in space for the first time by Spitzer in 2010. Spitzer later identified the molecules in a host of different cosmic environments. It even found them in staggering quantities, the equivalent in mass to 15 Earth moons, in a called the .

In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas. The recent discovery of buckyballs particles means that large quantities of these molecules must be present in some stellar environments in order to link up and form solid particles. The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form.

"This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed," said Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos."

Buckyballs have been found on Earth in various forms. They form as a gas from burning candles and exist as solids in certain types of rock, such as the mineral shungite found in Russia, and fulgurite, a glassy rock from Colorado that forms when lightning strikes the ground. In a test tube, the solids take on the form of dark, brown "goo."

"The window Spitzer provides into the infrared universe has revealed beautiful structure on a cosmic scale," said Bill Danchi, Spitzer program scientist at Headquarters in Washington. "In yet another surprise discovery from the mission, we're lucky enough to see elegant structure at one of the smallest scales, teaching us about the internal architecture of existence."

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User comments : 13

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kaasinees
0.1 / 5 (23) Feb 22, 2012
They are called FULLERENES after Richard Buckminster Fuller. (For the third time today!)
thales
5 / 5 (4) Feb 22, 2012
They are called FULLERENES after Richard Buckminster Fuller. (For the third time today!)


"Buckyball" or "Buckminsterfullerene" is more specific. Carbon nanotubes are also considered fullerenes.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2012
The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form

Somebody built a space station out of buckyballs?
Or found a more ingenious way of making a beacon for contacting another species (or at least for saying: "Look. Something unusual here. Come check it out."

I'm usually not one for conspiracy/alien theories, but this is too good to pass up on for at least formulating one.
kaasinees
0.1 / 5 (22) Feb 22, 2012
They are called FULLERENES after Richard Buckminster Fuller. (For the third time today!)


"Buckyball" or "Buckminsterfullerene" is more specific. Carbon nanotubes are also considered fullerenes.


Hmm i didn't know they consider nanotubes as fullerenes, which doesn't make sense at all to me. Anyway maybe nanotubes are out there as well..

@antialias_physorg
http://www.scienc...9290061Z
If combustion can produce fullerenes why cant a star or other process in space?
-
Anyway the proper naming would be 60-fullerene not buckyballs as it implies molecules with more/less carbon atoms.
roomend
not rated yet Feb 22, 2012
So the guys who first discovered bucky balls and proved their soccerball shape (I worked with one of them for a short while several years after that work) indeed named them Buckminsterfullerene.

A fullerene is any form of closed carbon cluster, which can take on a wide variety of interesting forms. It turns out that the C60 cluster is one of the most stable. That's why it was discovered first and that's why it's all over the place in large amounts.

What I would like to know is if other fullerenes also exist in these solids, i.e. how pure is the C60?
Graeme
not rated yet Feb 22, 2012
The C60 solid has the unusual property that it does not melt. C60 is either a gas or sold, no matter what the pressure, there is no triple bpoint below a critical point. If you had a pure C60 solid it would not be goo. The conspiracy theory above could be discredited if there are other fullerenes in the mix, and confirmed if there was an unnatural composition.
Graeme
not rated yet Feb 23, 2012
For those of us that have no idea of the mass of Everest, the mass calculated is 5.7E19 kg that is 5.7 times ten to the power of nineteen kilograms (since we have so much trouble with power of symbol) See http://arxiv.org/...18v2.pdf there is nothing about anyother kinds of buckyballs, but interestingly the spectrum changes with the phase of the binary star. I suspect this will be measured more over time and will show the mecahnism that C60 appears by, and will prove that no UFO is involved.
Graeme
not rated yet Feb 23, 2012
For those of us that have no idea of the mass of Everest, the mass calculated is 5.7E19 kg that is 5.7 times ten to the power of nineteen kilograms (since we have so much trouble with power of symbol) See http://arxiv.org/...18v2.pdf there is nothing about anyother kinds of buckyballs, but interestingly the spectrum changes with the phase of the binary star. I suspect this will be measured more over time and will show the mecahnism that C60 appears by, and will prove that no UFO is involved. The article describes the solid form as "smoke".
_ilbud
not rated yet Feb 24, 2012
The article describes the solid form as "smoke".

So you haven't seen Lost then.
QuantaUniverseCom
1 / 5 (1) Feb 25, 2012
With solid particle buckyballs as large as mountains around a star, scientists should seriously consider that EM forces in cold vacuum are superconducting electricity and magnetic fields are being organized. It should become obvious that there is no size limit to solid buckyballs, and likely they surround all galaxies, like the small magellanic clouds, and are superconducting cosmic scale electricity and magnetic fields by a far better theory then phony unproven dark matter. See my story on solid EM buckyball cosmology at
http://holographi...mic.html
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Feb 27, 2012
So the guys who first discovered bucky balls and proved their soccerball shape (I worked with one of them for a short while several years after that work) indeed named them Buckminsterfullerene.

A fullerene is any form of closed carbon cluster, which can take on a wide variety of interesting forms. It turns out that the C60 cluster is one of the most stable. That's why it was discovered first and that's why it's all over the place in large amounts.

What I would like to know is if other fullerenes also exist in these solids, i.e. how pure is the C60?

But what link does the shape of nanotubes have with buckminster fuller? It does not make sense to me. And why did i get downrated for correctly stating that they are called 60-fullerene and not buckyballs as it implies buckyballs with more or less than 60 atoms while this article implies C60?
roomend
not rated yet Feb 28, 2012
Kaasinees, I would consider a single wall nanotube with closed end-caps a fullerene.

I think you got downrated because buckyballs technically only refer to the C60 fullerene (I didn't rate you down). Other arrangements of carbon atoms did not get special names like C60 which was discovered first.
daid
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
I think the reporters, as well as authors of the original paper would do well to read the pioneering paper by Cami et al. before making such obviously false claims. This news reports that, "In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas." Evans's et al. abstract calls it, "the first detection of C60 in the solid phase." But one can easily read in the original paper by Cami et al. detecting buckyballs in space from 2010, "Our results suggest that the emission does not originate from free molecules in the gas phase, but from molecular carriers attached to solid material." Of course, Evans et al. may have found an interesting physical structure for C60. However, it is surely not the first detection in a solid phase, and Cami et al. cannot find any consistency of their results modelling C60 as a gas. Reporters are supposed to dig into the details and fact-check, not take bogus scientific claims at the original authors' face value.