Chemists Find Too Much Air Sticks Precious Carbon Footballs Together

December 16, 1998

Ever since researchers discovered a form of carbon consisting of a class of miniature, football-like structures known as fullerenes, they have been racing to use the unique structures in all kinds of novel ways from drug delivery to nanotechnology. However, chemists at the Universities of Warwick and Surrey have found that there could be a major problem if these novel forms of carbon are used at normal ambient temperatures.

The research chemists Dr Thomas Drewello at the University of Warwick, Dr Roger Taylor at Sussex, and University of Warwick PhD student Mark P. Barrow have discovered that even at normal - ambient temperatures, two of the football-like carbon structures composed of sixty carbon atoms (C60) can become attached, fixed together by a single oxygen atom which acts as a bridge between the two, forming C120O. This obviously calls into question whether one can rely on this form of carbon to carry out particular engineering or chemical roles at normal temperatures when oxygen is present.

The researchers analysed thirteen different samples of solid state C60 and found C120O was present in concentrations of up to about 1% in every sample that degraded, which is sufficient to cause concern for anyone relying on C60 to remain stable under normal conditions. The researchers believe that this change from C60 to C120O is caused by a reaction known as "cycloaddition." The discovery suggests that fullerenes will need protection from oxidation in any application in future.
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University of Warwick

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