Scientists have succeeded in creating buckyballs made from boron molecules, which could possibly open up new exploration in using the unique molecules for nanomaterials.
Buckyballs, or more formally buckminsterfullerene, were discovered in the mid-1980s and are a “hollow cage, made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons like a soccer ball,” Scientific American said
. They were the basis for creating numerous carbon structures, such as carbon nanotubes, and advanced nanotechnology. It was theorized at the time that such structures could be made from other elements, and a chemist at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, was the first to record one.
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Although the structure of the boron buckyball isn’t exactly like the original, it creates a cage of 40 atoms and the researchers are calling it borospherene, Scientific American said.
“This is the first time that a boron cage has been observed experimentally,” Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown who led the team that made the discovery, said in a university press release
. “As a chemist, finding new molecules and structures is always exciting. The fact that boron has the capacity to form this kind of structure is very interesting.”
Boris Yakobson, a scientist at Rice University, Texas, predicted in 2007 that a cage of 80 boron atoms would be stable.
“We predicted the possibility of B80 fullerene, and now, seven years after, it is remarkable to see experimental evidence,” Yakobson told Scientific American. “Especially as it is not what any of the theoretical calculations predicted.”
“Rather than a series of five- and six-membered rings formed by carbon, borospherene consists of 48 triangles, four seven-sided rings and two six-membered rings. Several atoms stick out a bit from the others, making the surface of borospherene somewhat less smooth than a buckyball,” the Brown University release said.
Wang said it was too early to determine what the borospherene might be used for.
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