Chinese scientists have synthesized a new form of carbon known as monolayer polymeric fullerene, which has exhibited good crystallinity and stability that would make it a useful material candidate for electronics, catalysts and quantum computing, according to a study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.
Fullerene, sometimes referred to as "buckyballs", is a cage-like structure made of 60 connected carbon atoms that resembles the shape of a hollow soccer ball.
Despite its complex form, this allotrope of carbon is found in nature and space, and has been the subject of intense research, especially in materials science, electronics and nanotechnology, since its discovery in 1985.
The new material is essentially a sheet of connected fullerenes, which scientists have been trying to synthesize for decades, said Zheng Jian, a researcher from the Institute of Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences who led the research team that made the breakthrough.
Carbon is the basis of life and is one of the most common and studied elements in the world. A study of pure carbon would not seem exciting to a layperson, but it is a vibrant field that has yielded many rewards and applications.
The scientists who discovered fullerene won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1996 for their work. The 2010 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to scientists who discovered graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice.
Fullerene has been used in the medical field in the design of highperformance contrast agents for X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging. Graphene is used in next generation biomedicine, coatings, electronics, sensors and energy technologies.
"Our work is significant because it adds a new member to the carbon allotrope family, joining the likes of diamond, graphite, graphene and carbon nanotubes," Zheng said.
"It also opened up a new research field in two-dimensional carbon materials, and the synthesis technique we developed, which doesn't require complex reactions and can work in atmospheric pressure, could provide a unique perspective in exploring new carbon materials," he added.
The new carbon allotrope has shown to be a good semiconductor material, and is incredibly stable, even at a temperature as high as 326.85 C, he said.
Therefore, the material has good application potential in optics, electronics, superconducting, quantum computing, information storage and catalysts, but more research is needed to probe its industrial practicality, he said. (China Daily)
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