Chemist Lawrence Scott and Colleagues Create "Buckyball" Molecule

Chemist Lawrence Scott and Colleagues Create "Buckyball" Molecule

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Prof. Lawrence Scott (Chemistry) is among a team of scientists that has created a carbon "buckyball" molecule only 20 atoms in size, the smallest of its type.

The achievement was detailed in the Sept. 7 edition of the journal Nature, then cited in an Oct. 10 article in the New York Times on the soccer-ball-shaped carbon molecules, which some believe may have a host of medical and industrial uses.

With Scott on the research team are former BC visiting scientist Marc Gelmont of Israel and seven colleagues from Albert-Ludwigs University in Germany.

"They said it couldn't be done," Scott said of the creation of the fullerene, or "buckyball," so named because of a resemblance to renowned architect R. Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome.

Fullerenes are new elemental forms of carbon, like diamond and graphite, which have been identified only in the past 15 years. Harold Kroto of Great Britain and Americans Robert Curl Jr. and Richard Smalley won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for their discovery of the 60-atom "buckyball," shaped like a soccer ball.

Prof. Lawrence Scott (Chemistry) with "buckyball" model.

While fullerenes of varying sizes have since been fashioned, each representing a new elemental form of carbon, geometry dictates 20 atoms in size is the smallest a buckyball can be.

But no one had actually created one that tiny, until Scott and his colleagues did. In so doing, the team confirmed controversial theories on the nature and properties of these carbon molecules.

"This greatly expands the range of size of fullerenes, while opening up their range of possible uses in the future," said Scott. "If you can make the smallest one, you can, in principle, make any of them between 20 and 60 carbon atoms."

He said potential applications of the research include the development of AIDS-HIV protease inhibitors and other medicines, and the creation of light-emitting electronic materials used in flat-screen televisions and pocket calculators.


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