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July 1st, 2007
Opinion: Bench Monkey
Dylan Stiles just loves those funny-looking molecules
The rise of nanotechnology has brought a resurgence of interest in one of my favorite molecules, buckminsterfullerene. First discovered in 1985, it's one of the more recent additions to a family I like to call the 'funny-looking molecules'.
Their preparation has a rich history that is almost as old as organic chemistry itself. Why do chemists bother to synthesize these things? In many respects the goal is to test the physical limits of organic molecules. Left to its own devices, an sp3 C-C bond is most comfortable with a bond distance of 1.54 Å and angle of 109.5º. But how far can we stretch that before it breaks? Synthesizing molecules that force atoms into bizarre contortionist acts is the only way to learn.
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