I wish to apologize all readers of VERITAS for the extreme delay in posting VERITAS. The only excuse I have is to say that I have been busy in more timeconsuming ( but less meaningful ) activities. But I am back and hope to be more regular with learning and sharing knowledge thru VERITAS.
Today we will talk about a very exciting molecule. We will talk about C-60 ( carbon 60 ) . Carbon is a wonderful element . We are made of it , we live on it , some of us are obsessed with it ( diamonds are forever) , we write with it …. I could go on and on . Yet every once in a while it reveals to us something that is so strange and beautiful that we are forced to stop whatever we are doing and follow it to whereever it takes us .
One such revelation is the carbon 60 molecule. It was accidently discovered in 1985 by Curl , Kroto and Smalley while trying to understand the properties of interstellar dust. They found it in the dust.
Yes it is a form of natural carbon( with graphite and diamond) .
Carbon – 60 ( or bucky balls ) consist of 60 carbon atoms . They are arranged in the shape of a soccer ball . Imagine having a Carbon atom at each “node” ( place where the stiches of the leather meet) of the soccer ball. The molecule is hollow from inside. The most striking property of c-60 is that it is the most symmetric molecule. It can be rotated in 128 different ways and it will still look the same.
Carbon 60 has opened several new areas of research in Chemistry .
It can easily be produced in large quantities. Lets look at some of its properties and potential uses :
Fullerene Cages( carbon 60 cages) are about 10 angstroms in diameter ( around a billionth of a metre) . They are quite stable( breaking the balls/cages requires temperatures above 1000 degrees C ) . At lower temperatures ( several hundred degrees ) they vapourize but stay intact as cages . Carbon 60 can be found in interstellar dust and in some rocks on earth.
Having a molecule that is hollow invites an obvious question: Can we put something inside the modecule? store something inside the cage ?
The answer is yes ! Fullerenes(carbon 60 ) with enclosed atoms is called endohedral fullerenes. Many researchers have been able to construct such structures . However it is not easy : u cant break the cage and get the atom inside it . You have to form the c-60 cage around the atom. Such structures are represented like li@c(60) ie an atom of lithium inside the c60 cage .
Now what could the potental uses of C60 be ?
The answer is several :
a) Fullerene Nanotubes : How about combining millons of c-60 molecules end to end to form a long but very very thin tube . We use the fact that c-60 cages are hollow so we have a long thin hollow tube . Such tubes have been made and have been used to poke into the world of atoms.
b) Superconductors: when k3C60 molecule is cooled to about -260 degrees it looses all it resistance and becomes a super conductor . For Rb3C60 it happens at about -245 degrees C . C60 might be our best bet for finding a superconductor that works at higher temperatures.
c) Medicine :
Image putting a drug molecule inside a C-60 cage and releasing the drug into the blood stream . The Carbon 60 cage shields the drug molecule from unwanted organs and releases it only at the desirable place .
The C60 cage has approx the same size as the HIV virus . Some people are investigating if we can make the C-60 bind to HIV to make it inactive or make it unable to destroy our blood cells .
So we see that carbon 60 is a very very exciting molecule . Want to see what it looks like ? Search the web for fullerene and u will find several websites . Learn and Enjoy !