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Boron Buckyball Created

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:23PM

In 1985 it was discovered that carbon atoms can be arranged into a ball-like structure, dubbed buckyballs. This started scientists looking for other special carbon structures, as well as a search to determine if other elements can form similar structures. Researchers at Brown University have recently found that boron, carbon's neighbor, can, but it does have some important differences.

Buckyballs, or fullerenes are comprised of 60 carbon atoms, bound together in pentagons and hexagons. As boron has one less electron to bound with, this structure cannot be duplicated, but theoretically a cluster of 40 boron atoms could take on a different structure. Exactly what structure that would be, required extensive modelling by supercomputers, which provided binding energies for the different possible structures. These energies can act as fingerprints for molecular structures, so once the researchers produced the 40 atom clusters, they could measure what the structure is. To make the clusters, the researchers hit bulk boron with lasers, releasing a boron vapor that they then cooled with a helium jet. After isolating the clusters consisting of just 40 atoms, the researchers used another laser burst to get the binding energy.

The results showed that the boron clusters took on one of two structures, with one being like a sphere. Instead of being made of pentagons and hexagons like buckyballs, borospherene is comprised of triangles with six and seven-sided rings, with some atoms sticking out, making the structure less-than spherical. As it has only just been discovered, applications for borospherene are still unknown, though it could have potential for storing hydrogen.

Source: Brown University

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