Improbable 'buckyegg' hatched

Sep 28, 2006
Buckyegg (Christine Beavers/graphic)
Buckyegg (Christine Beavers/graphic)

An egg-shaped fullerene, or "buckyball egg" has been made and characterized by chemists at UC Davis, Virginia Tech and Emory and Henry College, Va. The unexpected discovery opens new possibilities for structures for fullerenes, which could have a wide range of uses.

"It was a total surprise," said Christine Beavers, a chemistry graduate student working with Professors Alan Balch and Marilyn Olmstead at UC Davis. Beavers is first author on the paper, published this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Fullerenes, sometimes called "buckyballs," are usually spherical molecules of carbon, named after the futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. The carbon atoms are arranged in pentagons and hexagons, so their structures can resemble a soccer ball. An important rule -- until now -- is that no two pentagons can touch, but are always surrounded by hexagons.

The "buckyegg" compound was made by collaborating scientists at Virginia Tech, led by Professor Harry Dorn. They heated a mixture of carbon and other ingredients under special conditions to make a mixture of fullerenes, then shipped the products to UC Davis, where Balch's group worked on characterizing their structures.

When Beavers started to map out the structure, she found two pentagons next to each other, making the pointy end of the egg. Initially she thought that the results were a mistake, but she showed the data to Marilyn Olmstead, an expert on X-ray crystallography, and they decided that the results were real. The egg contains a molecule of triterbium nitride inside.

The experiment was actually part of a project to find new, more predictable ways to make fullerenes, Beavers said. The researchers were trying to make fullerenes with atoms of terbium, a metal from the lanthanide series of the periodic table, trapped inside. Metals similar to terbium are used as contrast agents for some medical scanning procedures. By putting these metals inside fullerenes, the researchers hope to make compounds that could be both medically useful and well-tolerated in the body.

Source: University of California - Davis

Explore further: The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

12 hours ago

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

19 hours ago

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

Gold 'nano-drills'

Jan 22, 2015

Spherical gold particles are able to 'drill' a nano-diameter tunnel in ceramic material when heated. This is an easy and attractive way to equip chips with nanopores for DNA analysis, for example. Nanotechnologists ...

The importance of building small things

Jan 22, 2015

Strong materials, such as concrete, are usually heavy, and lightweight materials, such as rubber (for latex gloves) and paper, are usually weak and susceptible to tearing and damage. Julia R. Greer, professor ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.