Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Researchers discover boron 'buckyball'

The carbon buckyball has a boron cousin. A cluster for 40 boron atoms forms a hollow cage-like molecule.
The carbon buckyball has a boron cousin. A cluster for 40 boron atoms forms a hollow cage-like molecule.

Abstract:
The discovery of buckyballs — soccer-ball-shaped molecules of carbon — helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang's research group and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon's neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation. The researchers dubbed their newfound nanostructure "borospherene."

Researchers discover boron 'buckyball'

Providence, RI | Posted on July 14th, 2014

The discovery 30 years ago of soccer-ball-shaped carbon molecules called buckyballs helped to spur an explosion of nanotechnology research. Now, there appears to be a new ball on the pitch.

Researchers from Brown University, Shanxi University and Tsinghua University in China have shown that a cluster of 40 boron atoms forms a hollow molecular cage similar to a carbon buckyball. It's the first experimental evidence that a boron cage structure — previously only a matter of speculation — does indeed exist.

"This is the first time that a boron cage has been observed experimentally," said Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown who led the team that made the discovery. "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."

Wang and his colleagues describe the molecule, which they've dubbed borospherene, in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Carbon buckyballs are made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons to form a sphere — like a soccer ball. Their discovery in 1985 was soon followed by discoveries of other hollow carbon structures including carbon nanotubes. Another famous carbon nanomaterial — a one-atom-thick sheet called graphene — followed shortly after.

After buckyballs, scientists wondered if other elements might form these odd hollow structures. One candidate was boron, carbon's neighbor on the periodic table. But because boron has one less electron than carbon, it can't form the same 60-atom structure found in the buckyball. The missing electrons would cause the cluster to collapse on itself. If a boron cage existed, it would have to have a different number of atoms.

Wang and his research group have been studying boron chemistry for years. In a paper published earlier this year, Wang and his colleagues showed that clusters of 36 boron atoms form one-atom-thick disks, which might be stitched together to form an analog to graphene, dubbed borophene. Wang's preliminary work suggested that there was also something special about boron clusters with 40 atoms. They seemed to be abnormally stable compared to other boron clusters.

Figuring out what that 40-atom cluster actually looks like required a combination of experimental work and modeling using high-powered supercomputers.

On the computer, Wang's colleagues modeled over 10,000 possible arrangements of 40 boron atoms bonded to each other. The computer simulations estimate not only the shapes of the structures, but also estimate the electron binding energy for each structure — a measure of how tightly a molecule holds its electrons. The spectrum of binding energies serves as a unique fingerprint of each potential structure.

The next step is to test the actual binding energies of boron clusters in the lab to see if they match any of the theoretical structures generated by the computer. To do that, Wang and his colleagues used a technique called photoelectron spectroscopy.

Chunks of bulk boron are zapped with a laser to create vapor of boron atoms. A jet of helium then freezes the vapor into tiny clusters of atoms. The clusters of 40 atoms were isolated by weight then zapped with a second laser, which knocks an electron out of the cluster. The ejected electron flies down a long tube Wang calls his "electron racetrack." The speed at which the electrons fly down the racetrack is used to determine the cluster's electron binding energy spectrum — its structural fingerprint.

The experiments showed that 40-atom-clusters form two structures with distinct binding spectra. Those spectra turned out to be a dead-on match with the spectra for two structures generated by the computer models. One was a semi-flat molecule and the other was the buckyball-like spherical cage.

"The experimental sighting of a binding spectrum that matched our models was of paramount importance," Wang said. "The experiment gives us these very specific signatures, and those signatures fit our models."

The borospherene molecule isn't quite as spherical as its carbon cousin. 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.

As for possible uses for borospherene, it's a little too early to tell, Wang says. One possibility, he points out, could be hydrogen storage. Because of the electron deficiency of boron, borospherene would likely bond well with hydrogen. So tiny boron cages could serve as safe houses for hydrogen molecules.

But for now, Wang is enjoying the discovery.

"For us, just to be the first to have observed this, that's a pretty big deal," Wang said. "Of course if it turns out to be useful that would be great, but we don't know yet. Hopefully this initial finding will stimulate further interest in boron clusters and new ideas to synthesize them in bulk quantities."

The theoretical modeling was done with a group led by Prof. Si-Dian Li from Shanxi University and a group led by Prof. Jun Li from Tsinghua University. The work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (CHE-1263745) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Kevin Stacey

401-863-3766

Copyright © Brown University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

High-speed FM-AFM and simulation reveal atomistic dissolution processes of calcite in water July 28th, 2017

Atomic movies may help explain why perovskite solar cells are more efficient: SLAC's ultrafast 'electron camera' captures surprising atomic motions in these next-generation materials July 28th, 2017

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals to Webcast Fiscal 2017 Third Quarter Results July 27th, 2017

Chemistry

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Getting closer to porous, light-responsive materials: A new flexible material changes its porous nature when exposed to light July 27th, 2017

Graphene/ Graphite

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Regulation of two-dimensional nanomaterials: New driving force for lithium-ion batteries July 26th, 2017

Killing cancer in the heat of the moment: A new method efficiently transfers genes into cells, then activates them with light. This could lead to gene therapies for cancers July 9th, 2017

Tests show no nanotubes released during utilisation of nanoaugmented materials June 9th, 2017

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

Discoveries

High-speed FM-AFM and simulation reveal atomistic dissolution processes of calcite in water July 28th, 2017

Atomic movies may help explain why perovskite solar cells are more efficient: SLAC's ultrafast 'electron camera' captures surprising atomic motions in these next-generation materials July 28th, 2017

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

First Capacitive Transducer with 13nm Gap July 27th, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement: Enormous potential for the targeted delivery of pharmaceutical agents and the creation of tailored nanoparticles July 27th, 2017

Regulation of two-dimensional nanomaterials: New driving force for lithium-ion batteries July 26th, 2017

Shining rings: A new material emits white light when exposed to electricity: New synthetic approach could spark development of other dynamic materials July 24th, 2017

Announcements

High-speed FM-AFM and simulation reveal atomistic dissolution processes of calcite in water July 28th, 2017

Atomic movies may help explain why perovskite solar cells are more efficient: SLAC's ultrafast 'electron camera' captures surprising atomic motions in these next-generation materials July 28th, 2017

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Physicists gain new insights into nanosystems with spherical confinement: Enormous potential for the targeted delivery of pharmaceutical agents and the creation of tailored nanoparticles July 27th, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

High-speed FM-AFM and simulation reveal atomistic dissolution processes of calcite in water July 28th, 2017

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Ultracold molecules hold promise for quantum computing: New approach yields long-lasting configurations that could provide long-sought “qubit” material July 27th, 2017

Atomic discovery opens door to greener, faster, smaller electronic circuitry: Scientists find way to correct communication pathways in silicon chips, making them perfect July 27th, 2017

Research partnerships

High-speed FM-AFM and simulation reveal atomistic dissolution processes of calcite in water July 28th, 2017

Atomic movies may help explain why perovskite solar cells are more efficient: SLAC's ultrafast 'electron camera' captures surprising atomic motions in these next-generation materials July 28th, 2017

Triple-layer catalyst does double duty: Rice, University of Houston produce robust catalyst to split water into hydrogen, oxygen July 28th, 2017

Strange electrons break the crystal symmetry of high-temperature superconductors: Brookhaven Lab scientists discover spontaneous voltage perpendicular to applied current that may help unravel the mystery of high-temperature superconductors July 27th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project