Buckyball Solids Found in Space

Nasa's Spitzer telescope spots first solid buckyballs in space (Wired UK)

After finding gaseous clouds of buckyballs in space last year, astronomers have now discovered the carbon balls in a solid form, around a pair of stars some 6,500 light-years from Earth.

Buckyballs are microscopic spheres, where 60 carbon atoms are arranged -- with alternating patterns of hexagons and pentagons -- into a football-like pattern. The unusual structure makes them incredibly strong, and ideal candidates for things like superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armour.

NASA - NASA's Spitzer Finds Solid Buckyballs in Space

"These buckyballs are stacked together to form a solid, like oranges in a crate," said Nye Evans of Keele University in England, lead author of a paper appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. "The particles we detected are minuscule, far smaller than the width of a hair, but each one would contain stacks of millions of buckyballs."

Buckyballs were detected definitively in space for the first time by Spitzer in 2010. Spitzer later identified the molecules in a host of different cosmic environments. It even found them in staggering quantities, the equivalent in mass to 15 Earth moons, in a nearby galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud.

In all of those cases, the molecules were in the form of gas. The recent discovery of buckyballs particles means that large quantities of these molecules must be present in some stellar environments in order to link up and form solid particles. The research team was able to identify the solid form of buckyballs in the Spitzer data because they emit light in a unique way that differs from the gaseous form.

"This exciting result suggests that buckyballs are even more widespread in space than the earlier Spitzer results showed," said Mike Werner, project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "They may be an important form of carbon, an essential building block for life, throughout the cosmos."

Buckminsterfullerene - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Buckminsterfullerene (or buckyball) is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula C60. It is a cage-like fused-ring structure (truncated (T = 3) icosahedron) which resembles an association football ball, made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons, with a carbon atom at the vertices of each polygon and a bond along each polygon edge.

It was first intentionally prepared in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Sean O'Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley at Rice University.[2] Kroto, Curl and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of buckminsterfullerene and the related class of molecules, the fullerenes. The name is a homage to Buckminster Fuller, as C60 resembles his trademark geodesic domes. Buckminsterfullerene was the first fullerene molecule discovered and it is also the most common in terms of natural occurrence, as it can be found in small quantities in soot.[3][4] Solid and gaseous forms of the molecule have been detected in deep space.[5]

Buckminsterfullerene is the largest matter to have been shown to exhibit wave–particle duality.[6] Its discovery lead to the exploration of a new field of chemistry, involving the study of fullerenes.