A collaboration between the Kroto and Marshall groups uncovers the mystery of fullerene formation

In two recent publications that appeared in Nature Communications and Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research team led by Harry Kroto and Alan Marshall sheds new light on the process of fullerene formation.
Fullerenes exhibit a wide range of exciting properties that make them highly desirable for use in applications from solar cells to MRI contrast agents. They have even recently been found to exist in many extraterrestrial environments. Therefore, these carbon cages are not only valuable for their amazing properties but also appear to be a fundamental molecular species of the Universe. Despite tremendous advances in nanoscience since the discovery of C60 over 25 years ago, chemists have been unable to solve the puzzle of their self-assembly in carbon vapor.
Through a collaborative effort between the groups of Harry Kroto and Alan Marshall, the long-standing mystery of fullerene formation has been cracked. By use of a pulsed laser vaporization supersonic cluster source, the team discovered that fullerenes efficiently self-assemble via a ‘closed network growth’ mechanism. Key to the research was the powerful Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer at FSU’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, shed new light into the processes that govern self-assembly of carbon networks, which are likely involved in formation of other carbon nanostructures from carbon vapor, such as nanotubes and graphene. The work should also be of importance for illuminating astrophysical processes near carbon starts or supernovae that result in C60 formation throughout the Universe.
Small fullerenes remain a largely unexplored class of all-carbon molecules that are predicted to exhibit fascinating properties, distinct from their larger cousins such as C60, due to their large degree of curvature. That curvature, however, also renders the smallest fullerenes highly reactive, making them very difficult to detect experimentally. The team has also discovered the smallest stable fullerene to form in the gas-phase: a tiny C28 cage grown around an atom of titanium. The report, published in Journal of the American Chemical Society, reveals the first insight into metallofullerene formation and how small fullerenes may be stabilized by metal encapsulation.
Read more at http://www.livescience.com/21427-fullerene-buckyball-growth-explained-nsf-bts.html.

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