Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

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

Dolomite to launch Meros TCU-100 temperature controller at Lab-on-a-Chip & Microarray World Congress September 15th, 2014

Fonon at Cutting-Edge of 3D Military Printing: Live-Combat Scenarios Could See a Decisive Advantage with 3D Printing September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Graphene

New pricing report for bulk graphene materials September 13th, 2014

Molecular self-assembly controls graphene-edge configuration September 10th, 2014

Penn Engineers Advance Understanding of Graphene’s Friction Properties September 10th, 2014

Chemistry

Development of Algorithm for Accurate Calculation of Average Distance Travelled by Low-Speed Electrons without Energy Loss that Are Sensitive to Surface Structure September 11th, 2014

Rice chemist wins rare NSF Special Creativity Award: Grant extension will bolster Zubarev's effort to produce gold nanorods September 8th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Berkeley Lab Licenses Boron Nitride Nanotube Technology: New material has unique mechanical and electronic properties September 13th, 2014

Global Energy Systems Signs Master Sales Agreement with China Aviation Supplies Group September 4th, 2014

Breakthrough for Carbon Nanotube Solar Cells: Polychiral carbon nanotube mixture absorbs more sunlight September 3rd, 2014

Discoveries

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

'Squid skin' metamaterials project yields vivid color display: Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Materials/Metamaterials

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Iranian Nano Scientists Create Flame-Resistant Polymers September 13th, 2014

Announcements

Dolomite to launch Meros TCU-100 temperature controller at Lab-on-a-Chip & Microarray World Congress September 15th, 2014

Fonon at Cutting-Edge of 3D Military Printing: Live-Combat Scenarios Could See a Decisive Advantage with 3D Printing September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

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

'Squid skin' metamaterials project yields vivid color display: Rice lab creates RGB color display technology with aluminum nanorods September 15th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Treatment of Cell Infection by Nanotechnology September 15th, 2014

Research partnerships

Elusive Quantum Transformations Found Near Absolute Zero: Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University researchers measured the quantum fluctuations behind a novel magnetic material's ultra-cold ferromagnetic phase transition September 15th, 2014

NEI Corporation and PneumatiCoat Technologies Sign Agreement to Jointly Develop and Market New Materials for Lithium-ion Batteries September 12th, 2014

Advanced Light Source Sets Microscopy Record| Berkeley Lab Researchers Achieve Highest Resolution Ever with X-ray Microscopy September 11th, 2014

Researchers Create World’s Largest DNA Origami September 11th, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE