Category Archives: chemistry

Editing Genes Using Molecular Scissors

Friends,

In the last few years a revolutionary new technique has been developed to edit genes. In this VERITAS I will describe the technique and how it has the potential to completely transform the way we fight diseases and how it may help us come up with new disease resistant varieties of plants and animals.

Continue reading Editing Genes Using Molecular Scissors

Does Water Remember?

Friends,

        Let me ask you a question:Take a bucket of water. Put a spoonfull of sugar in it. Mix thoroughly. Now take another bucket of water. Take a spoon of the sweetened water from the first bucket and mix in the new bucket( call this solution 2p). Now take another bucket of plain water.

And put a spoonful of the 2p solution and put this in the new bucket. Keep repeating this: keep taking a spoonfull of the diluted mixture and mix it in a new bucket full of water. After 20 such repeated dilutions do you think the water in the 20th bucket is sweet? “Certainly not!” I can hear you say. But there are people who believe that the water will remain sweet even after 20 such repeated-successive dilutions. These people believe in Homeopathy!

       Homeopathy is based on two principles:

 

1) Like cures like: If a substance can produce an symptom similar to a disease then it can be used to cure the disease itself.

 

2) Law of Infinitesimals: If you dilute a substance with water or sugar to infinitely small quantities  it will work even better than the orignal substance. The more diluted the substance the better its healing powers.

            There are two sorts of dilutions that are in common use in Homeopathy: X and C. In a X dilution you mix one part of substance in 9 parts of water. Then you shake violently. To make a 10X dilution you will repeat this process 10 times, each time taking one part of the mixture and mixing in 9 parts of water. So in a 30 X solution the above process has been performed 30 times. In a C dilution you take one part of substance and ,mix in 99 parts of water and so on. Most homeopathic drugs come in 30X dilutions or more. More “powerful” drugs come with as much as 30C dilutions. A 30 X dilution means that the orignal substance has been diluted 1000000000000000000000000000000 times! This mixture is SO dilute that if you were to drink a cup full of this there is almost NIL probability that it would contain a molecule of the orignal “curing” agent. It is just water!!!!

          And the homeopathy people know that there may not be any molecule of the curing agent in the drug you take. So how do they explain their “science”? They say that water has a memory! Water remembers the substance that it was once in contact with! So the water molecules remember the molecules that they touched and retain the healing powers of the curing agent. So more you dilute it and shake vigorously the more it remembers the orignal curing agent.  (Homeopathy people lay a lot of stress on diluting and shaking vigorously). The shaking vigorously is to help the curing agent molecules hit as many water molecules as possible!

          Any person who has studied any science will tell you that all this is nonsense. And that is why Modern Science does not believe in Homeopathy. And that is why VERITAS does not believe in homeopathy.

This article was inspired by a beautiful program that I saw in BBC’s Horizon series. In this program the well known sceptic James Randi offers a million dollars to anyone who can show that homeopathy works( The prize still being offered. Want to try?). The Horizon team decides to try. The experiment takes places in the labs of the Royal Society of Sciences. It is carefully monitored. After a long trial with plain water samples and medicinal samples diluted to homeopathic levels it was shown that both have the same ( NIL) effects on blood samples. So a homeopathic drug is just the same as water! Lots of other controlled experiments have been conducted and they all lead to the same conclusion: water does not remember and that homeopathy is nonsense.

         Then why do some people get cured by homeopathy? Medicine knows that faith( or mind) is a healer( the placebo effect). So if you get cured with Homeopathy then that is just the placebo effect at work. Modern Medicine ( the real one ) can be marketed only if it shows an effect  beyond the placebo effect. But if you still have faith in homeopathy then please continue with it. I am sure it will have no side effect on you!

 Kanwar

 

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  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             

|======================================================|

 

Lavoisier

 

      Friends, in today’s VERITAS we will recall the story of one of the greatest Chemists- Antoine Lavoisier. Lavoisier is also known as the father of chemistry. We will remember his life, his works and his tragic death.

      Lavoisier was born rich. He was the son of a rich and famous lawer. He was born in Paris, 26th Aug 1743. His father died when he was just five years old. Young Lavoisier was cared for by his aunt who gave him a very strong education. He studied chemistry, biology, astronomy, mathematics and law in college which he attended from 1754 to 1761. In 1771 he married 13 year old Marie-Annie. His first paper in Chemistry appeared in 1764. In 1767 he worked on a geological survey of Alsace-Lorraine.

      When he was 25 Lavoisier was elected to the French Academy of Sciences. Here he was burdened with responsibilities. He had to prepare scientific reports on several different fields: respiration in plants, temperature and nature of volcanic lava, stink in Paris sewers, hygene in hospitals etc etc.

      But Lavoisier never forgot that his real interest was in Chemistry.

      The chemists of that day believed that every substance had something which they called phlogiston. This substance phlogiston was released whenever something burnt. Lavoisier was dissatisfied by this theory. He read the works of Priestley and Cavendish and came up with a new theory of burning.

According to this theory burning is possibe by taking something from the air around the burning substance. So burning was not a release of phlogiston but an intake of something from air around the substance. Lavoisier showed that a burning metal increases in weight and the air around it decreases in weight.

Lavoisier explained that the decrease in weight of the air equals the increase in weight of the metal. So in one master stroke Lavoisier not only explained combustion but also proposed the law of conservation of matter! He named the substance which was used in combustion Oxygen.

      Having stated the law of conservation of matter he applied it to all chamical reactions. All chemical reactions must balance!!

This created a revolution in chemmistry. All chemical reactions were weighed before and after the event and missing masses /chemicals were found.

      Lavoisier also explained the formation of acids and salts.

He developed gas analysis and calorimetry. He studied organic compounds and created a system of chemical nomenclature.

      He wrote the Elementary Treatise of Chemistry. This is considered as the equivalent of Newton’s Principia Mathematica for Chemistry. For the first time in history Chemistry was treated as a science. facts were put before imagination. Known elements were differentiated from compounds. Lavoisier listed

33 elements from which compounds could be made. That was the first time that elements were recognized. Before this the “elements” that chemists recognized were Air, Water, Earth and Fire!!!!

      His wife was his companion in his research. She translated his works into english and maintained records.

      Lavoisier’s life outside science was equally colorful.

He was one of the richest and most respected people in the french society. He had a huge number of friends from different professions. Lavoisier became an institution of learning.

      But to maintain his lifestyle and perform costly experiments he needed money. To achieve this objective he became a fermier-general( tax collector). His income increased manifold. He headed several public commissions.

      But he always made sure that he spent 6 hours a day in his lab: 6 tp 9 in the morning and 7 to 10 at night.

      But then came his downfall during the french revolution.

In 1794 27 fermier-generals were impriosoned. The revolutionaries hated the old system and its officials. The judge said ” The Republic has no need of scientists”. Lavoisier and his former colleagues were given the death sentence.

      According to a story Lavoisier performed his last experiment in his death. He wanted someone to record how long the head stays alive after a beheading. So he told the “student” that he would keep blinking after his beheading and the student should record the time. Lavoisier wa beheaded on 8th May 1794. He kept blinking for about 15 seconds after his head was cut off. A scientist in life and a scientist in death.

      The mathematician Lagrange lamented the beheading by saying “It took only an instant to cut off that head, but France may not produce another like it in a century”

Kanwar 

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  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                              

|======================================================|

The IgNobel Prizes

 

In today’s VERITAS we consider a very serious issue: the importance of fun in Science. We seem to think that Science is a very serious affair and is done by serious people who do not have a sense of humour. Lets examine these thoughts a little deeper. What is the origin of Science? Is it not an effort that has its foundations in curiosity. And who is most associated with curiosity? A child!

So Science arises from a childlike curiosity. So why should we consider Science to be a dull boring thing. Science is the deepest fun that a person can have and it recreates the fun of discovery that we all feel when we were little.

      Now give me one good reason why a person who is curious about electrons more of a scientist than a person who experiments and wonders about how long a biscuit can be dipped in tea so that it absorbs the maximum tea but does not break!!! In my opinion both are scientists as long as their aim is to honestly satisfy their OWN curiosity!

      However this world is crazy! It tends to recognize people who are curious about the electron and laugh at people who worry about biscuits and tea etc.

      The Ignobel prizes are an attempt to reward people who try and do crazy science that other people try to stay away from.

Each year 10 IgNobel prizes are awarded in different fields.

      Eor example, Len Fisher got the Ignobel prize in Physics for finding a optimal way to dip biscuits in tea. Harold Hillman  got a prize for a report on how much pain different methods of execution might cause on subjects.

      This prize does not mean that the winners do wrong research. The research that wins this prize must be based on sound scientific principles.

      Arnd Leike of the University of Munich showed mathematically that beer froth obeys the law of mathematical decay and won the Physics prize in 2002. This work was mathematicallly sound.

 

      The British Standards Institute got the 1999 Literature prize for its 6 page specification( BS-6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea.

      Most papers written by these scientists are published in real research journals. For example the 2003 prize for medicine went to a research article published in the proceedings of the royal academy of sciences. This paper showed that the size of some areas in the brain of London taxi drivers is larger than normal. This is because the areas needed for navigation through the tricky roads in london were more developed.

 

      Some people who win these prizes are very respected scientists. For example Michael Berry the discoverer of the Berry Phase in Physics is a highly regarded Physicist and he won the Ignobel for his experiments on the magnetic levitation of non magnetic things( frogs, pizzas, sumo wrestlers).

      These prizes are presented at a function at Harvard University and sponsored by the journal “Annals of Improbable research”. The aim is to award science that first makes you laugh and then makes you think.

      Friends, there is so much around us that we can discover. Lets not be bogged down by complicated books and complex equations. These books and equations are mere tools. But the thing that we want to discover is the beautiful and wonderful nature. When we decide to discover these tools will become easy. The important thing is to go back and answer the questions that interest us and not bother about what interests others.

 

“When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,

and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with

much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”   –Walt Whitman

 

 

 

Kanwar

 

 

|======================================================|

  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                 

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                 

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                          

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                             

|======================================================|

The Story of Phosphorus

 

   In today’s VERITAS we will study the remarkable element Phosphorus.

We will study the history of its discovery and some of the properties that make it so useful and also so dangerous.

   Before the study of chemicals became a science it used to be a field for people with more monetary interests. Alchemists were about the only people who studied chemicals and they had only two aims: to find a way to make gold from other metals/elements and to find a chemical that would make man immortal. Hennig Brand was just another alchemist and he was trying to find new ways of making gold. In a crazy experiment he filled a tub with human urine. He boiled it into paste. He hoped that he would heat the paste and condense the fumes and these condensed fumes would be gold.

To his disappointment he obtained a white waxy substance. But this substance had a remarkable property: it glowed in the dark. Brand had discovered Phosphorus.

The year was 1669. And this was the first element that was isolated since the days of ancient civilizations( who knew about gold, silver , iron etc).It was named phosphorus( meaning light bearer). Soon this chemical became famous with chemists the world over. Robert Boyle in England did a lot of research on it.

      If you are thinking that Alchemists were a few crazy people with some crazy interests you are wrong. Alchemy had a huge following at that time. People knew that gold was a substance and iron was a substance.

They knew that water was a substance and salt was a substance. They knew how to get salt from sea water. So they thought that they were converting one substance to another. They wondered if they could find a substance that could be converted to gold. They lacked that one critical piece of knowledge that we have : gold is an element and water is a compound.

You can get oxygen from water but Gold is not composed of anything else.

You cannot create a gold atom from another element’s atom. People at that time did not know about atoms and about the impossibility of such a conversion. Even the great scientist Isaac Newton was an Alchemist. When he was not doing Physics he was trying to mix substances to try and make gold.

      For about a 100 years the only way to extract Phosphorus was from urine.

In 1770 some scientists realized that animal bones contained Phosphorus and found ways of extracting it.

 Phosphorus has a tendency to burst into flames. There are 4 kinds of Phosphorus: white, red, black and violet. White Phosphorus is the most volatile. In its pure form it has to be carefully controlled. It is usually stored in oil baths. As soon as it comes in contact with air it bursts into flames.  This property of phosphorus inspired scientists. Red phosphorus is more stable and can be controlled more easily.

      Think for a moment about how difficult it would be to light a fire.

You need a spark. Can you imagine yourself going to a jungle and creating a fire with just rocks and dry leaves…. Now imagine doing it everyday!

The invention of matches was a great boon to mankind. It made burning fires so much easier… a routine task.   In 1827, John Walker the English chemist discovered that if he coated the end of a stick with certain chemicals and let them dry, he could start a fire by striking the stick anywhere. These were the first friction matches. In 1830, the French chemist, Charles Sauria, created a match made with white phosphorus. Sauria’s matches had no odor, but they made people sick with a ailment dubbed “phossy jaw”.White phosphorus is extremely poisonous! In 1855, safety matches were patented by Johan Edvard Lundstrom of Sweden. Lundstrom put red phosphorus on the sandpaper outside the box and the other ingredients on the match head, solving the problem of “phossy jaw” and creating a match that could only be safely lit off the prepared, special striking, surface.

Now Phosphrous is explosive and also very poisonous. 50 mg of phosphorus is a fatal dose. People started using Phosphorus in bombs and tracer bullets.

They also started making chemical weapons using Phosphrous.

In the second world war the German city of Hamburg was destroyed by phosphorus derived bombs. 80,000 phosphorus bombs and 500 phosphorus drums were dropped on Hamburg for three days. 40,000 men were killed, a further 40,000 wounded and 900,000 were homeless or missing. In three nights Hamburg was wiped out.

 Some scientists believe that Phosphorus limits life on earth. It is required by all organisms but it is extremely rare. It is a part of all bones and cells.

Recently a book on this history of this element has been released :” The Shocking History of Phosphrous: A biography of the Devil’s Element” by John Emsley.

The_alchemist

      The discovery of the glowing Phosphrous by Alchemists from urine has also been the subject of a very famous painting: “The Alchemist” by Joseph Wright (1771). A print of the painting is attached with this VERITAS mail.

 

Kanwar

 

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  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:

  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:

  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,

  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

|======================================================|

Henry Cavendish

 

      Today’s VERITAS is a short biography of one of the greatest Scientists of all time. A person who did Science for knowledge and knowledge only. A person whose character comes closest to the picture that most people have of Scientists: uncommunicative, absent minded ….

This is the story of Henry Cavendish. And he lived in a time when Chemistry meant blasts in laboratories, smelling all sorts of pungent fumes etc.

      Cavendish was the son of Lord Charles Cavendish( one helluva rich dude). He was born on October 10 , 1731. He joined Cambridge University in 1749… but he left Cambridge without completing his degree in 1753.

After a tour of Europe he went to live in London. There he lived a frugal life and did not socialize much. His energies were devoted to the study of the Sciences.

       Cavendish had inherited a HUGE amount of wealth from his father and uncles and was one of the richest men in England. So he did not work. He only did Science( what a life!). He built a laboratory for himself and did some very important experiments.

      His earliest researches were in Chemistry and Heat. BUt his first research paper did not come until 1766. He was 35 years old when this happened. Please note that most modern “Scientists” start publishing papers when they are about 26 years old and publish a lot. Cavendish did not care much about publication and did Science to satisfy his own curiosity.

      His first paper dealt with Facticious Airs( chemical compounds). He had studied the properties of gases very carefully and had characterized them for the first time by Specific Gravity.

      In 1781 Cavendish was the first to show that when Oxygen and Hydrogen are burnt together water is formed.

He writes in his paper :

  ” …on applying the lighted paper to the mouth of the bottle… With 3 parts of inflammable air to 7 of common air, there was a very loud noise”.

  ” By the experiments it appeared that when inflammable and common air are exploded in proper proportion, almost all of the inflammable air and near one-fifth of the common air loose their elasticity and are condensed into dew”

He discovered Nitric Acid in 1795.

      Canvendish was also interested in Electric Phenomenon and spent several years experimenting with electricity. But he published only 2 papers on this subject: in 1772 and 1776. About a 100 years later Maxwell published the unpublished investigations of Cavendish. It seems that Cavendish had done the experiments that made Faraday and Coloumb famous much before them. He had just not bothered to publish. 

He discovered the composition of Air. He established through accurate experiments that Air consists of 79.167 % phlogisticated air( now nitrogen + argon) and 20.833% dephlogisticated air( now known as oxygen). He also established that 1/120 of air is a third gas( now we know that this is CO2).

    Cavendish also established the mean density of earth in 1796-97. He established it to be 5.448. He did this by carefully verifying Newton’s formula for gravitation using 2 metal balls and determining the attraction between them. This way he established the value of the gravitational constant and thus was the first to “weigh the earth”.

   Cavendish did not talk much. He did not even talk to his servants. It is said that he would write what he wanted to eat on a piece of paper and place it on the dining table. His servants would cook the dish and place it on the table and go away. Minimal contact with people. Maximum Science.

      Cavendish died in 1810 leaving behind a huge fortune and stacks of scientific manuscripts. In his memory the famous Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge was started.

Kanwar

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|  Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:                  

|  Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:                  

|  Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,                           

|  Correct old time and regulate the Sun;                              

|======================================================================|

IDENTITY OF PARTICLES

 

      Before we derive anything today here is an interesting quote that the fortune command showed me :

MATH AND ALCOHOL DON’T MIX!

        Please, don’t drink and derive.

                          – Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving

      🙂

      Today in VERITAS we shall prove a fundamental law of Physics. We shall also see how different the world of elementary particles is from the world of our everyday experience.

      Lets take 2 kids and lets give each one a white ball. Each kid knows which ball he has and can identify his ball. Now lets suppose the kids are not allowed to mark their balls with colors. i.e the balls look identical. Now if the kids throw their balls at each other they can identify which ball belongs to whom by following carefully the trajectory of the motion of the balls.

      Now lets play with elementary particles(like electrons). All electrons look exactly the same(no way to color them). And there is no way to identify one electron from the other bacause we cannot follow the trajectory of their motion. Note that to follow the trajectory of motion of a particle we need to know its position and speed at every instance of time. This is not possible according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

       So we come to the conclusion that elementary particles loose their identity when they are close to each other. Now lets make a even more remarkable statement: It is not that we humans cannot distinguish between these particles… Nothing in nature can distinguish between these particles!!!!

      In Quantum Mechanics( the Physics of elementary particles) all the properties of a particle are denoted by a state. So when we have to say that particle 1 is in the state A we write it like this :  |A>. So the statement that particle 1 is in state A and particle 2 is in a state B can be written as :

                  |A> |B>

      In our notation the particle on the left side is always particle 1 and one on the right is particle 2. Now the attentive reader will point out that we are distinguishing between the particles … and that is not done! Yes that is right. if |A> |B> is possible then |B> |A> is possible too. So what we are saying is that particle 1 can be in state A or in the B state and the same with particle 2.

      Now we know that both |A> |B> and |B> |A> are possible. There is a relation between these 2. There are 2 kinds of particles : The Bosons (with integral spins. eg photons) and Fermions(with half integral spins eg electrons) . Now the relationship between |A> |B> and |B> |A> is different for both these:

For Bosons(eg photons)        |A> |B> =   |B> |A>

For Fermions(eg electrons)    |A> |B> = – |B> |A>

      So for Fermions the particles interchange with a – sign. This brings us to the fundamental Physics theorem which we wanted to prove:

     Let the two particles be in the same state A . Then the statement looks like  |A> |A> . Now notice that this state |A> |A> CAN ONLY BE TRUE FOR BOSONS! This is because |A> |A> can never be equal to  -|A> |A>. So two fermions ( eg electrons) can NEVER be in the same state because they need to interchange with a – sign and that is not possible for something like |A> |A>. This is a fundamental principle of nature and is called Pauli’s Exclusion principle.

      All of Chemistry is based on this principle. In a atom no two electrons can be in the same state. That means that they have to have different values of any or some of the following properties :

orbital

angular momentum

magnetic quantum number

spin

 

      This decides how the periodic table would be filled.

See how strange the Physics of elementary particles is. It violates the thinking that we have gained out of our everyday experiences.

 

Why does glue not stick to its container?

 

      Have you ever wondered why glue does not stick inside its own tube?

Glue as we know comes out so nice and liquid and then sticks to any surface you apply it to. And then there is insta glue or the crazy glue that sticks seconds after it comes out of its tube. And it always ALWAYS sticks to your fingers and there is a horrible mess.

      To answer these questions the VERITAS team travelled all the way to the Andes mountains, crossed the Amazon and came back to Noida and found the answer in the Scientific American ( Just joking).

      Lets see how glues and adhesives actually work. There are two forces that are involved here: adhesion and cohesion. Cohesion is when molecules of the same substance bind together. Adhesion is when molecules of two different substance bind together. In glue both the forces are strong. So glue sticks to itself and to other surfaces too. And the binding properties of glue are because of both these properties. The glue binds to any surface and then binds togther with its own kind to form a strong bond.

        Glue molecules are giant plastic polymers. Now there are two kinds of glues :

1) Normal ones( less sticky, used in offices etc): This glue has lots of giant plastic molecules floating about in water. So when you apply it to a surface and dry it then all the water evaporates. All that is left is the sticky glue molecules that sticks. So the point is that it contains water so you have to dry it to remove water.

 

   This kind of glue does not stick inside the tube because it cannot dry inside the closed tube. However if you keep the tube open then the mouth of the tube dries and the lil bit of glue near the mouth will dry . And you will have to puncture it again.

 

2) Insta glue, crazy glue, super glue( very sticky, used to really STICK): This kind of glue is the one that sticks IMMEDAITELY on contact with a surface. This glue is usually made of lots of small molecules of ethyl-2-cyanoacrylate. THis molecule is a small one. But on coming in contact with water it IMMEDIATELY joins together to form a HUGE, LONG chain. i.e it polymerises on contact with water. Now all surfaces and air contain some moisture. So as soon as it comes out of the tube it polymerises to form a hard brittle substance, sticking anything it finds on the way. Inside the tube there is no moisture so no sticking.

 

  Another reason which does not let glues stick to their tubes is that the insides of the tubes have a single charge on them and glues work best on polar substances( both charges + and – separated by a distance) .

BUCKYBALLS

 

      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 !