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Bucky Balls Take A New Twist

A new family of bucky balls that break the isolated-pentagon rule have been discovered after the detection of an unexplained peak in the mass spectrum of metallofullerenes.

Scientists at Virginia Tech and several other institutions have discovered a family of fullerene molecules that differ from those previously reported where even numbers of carbon atoms link to form pentagons each isolated by hexagons to form a spherical cage. The new fullerene contains pentagons that share one side and resemble an angular figure eight.

The new molecule is possible due to an earlier discovery by the university's researchers to place four metal atoms inside a fullerene of 80 carbon atoms (C80), creating endohedral metallofullerenes. The new structure has only 68 carbon atoms, which are stabilized by the three metal atoms. The three metal atoms have a nitrogen atom core.

The researchers discovered that they had created the rule-breaking metallofullerene when they conducted a detailed study of the same mixtures that yielded the first metallofullerenes. Having already discovered that nitrogen will allow metal atoms to be inserted into fullerenes, an unexplained peak was noticed in the mass spectum of the metallofullerenes. The component was isolated and studied by NMR spectoscopy. Although the NMR data suggested a new structure, it wasn't sufficient proof for publication.

So Virginia Tech undergraduate student Greg Rice and visiting scholar Jim Duchamp were able to make about a half of a milligram of the material. When attempts to get a crystal structure failed, the team turned to Patrick Fowler of the University of Exeter. He used computer modeling to determine that of 6,332 ways to assemble fullerenes, only 11 structures agreed with the data and only one structure was stable.

Once the structure had been identified, the new fullerene was isolated to contain scandium that would aid its characterization by NMR studies. The Virginia Tech researchers have since created a family of C68 endohedral metallofullerenes by inserting other metals.

The study appears in the November 23rd issue of


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