AUG 22, 2019 6:00 AM PDT

Scientists Synthesized the First-ever Circular Molecule of Pure Carbon

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

An atomic-level microscopic image of a carbon-18 ring (IBM Research)

Carbon atoms, the favorite "Lego blocks" for chemists, are known for their versatility of forming a large variety of three-dimensional configurations. For decades, scientists have been trying to create a ring-shaped molecule comprising only carbon.

This August, a collaboration between IBM Research–Zürich and Oxford University reported the first success: they have managed to synthesize a cyclo[18]carbon, a circular molecule with 18 carbon atoms, and capture its image using an atomic force microscope.

Carbon is capable of forming many allotropes—chemical entities that are elementally identical but structurally different. For example, inside diamonds, carbon atoms are tetrahedrally bonded, while graphite is made of hexagonal carbon sheets. The Nobel-worthy fullerene (also known as the "buckyball") has 60 carbons forming an icosahedral, soccer ball-like molecular structure.

Throughout the years, many allotropes of carbons have been discovered and/or synthesized, but no one has come close to making a cyclocarbon because the molecule must be highly reactive: all atoms are expected to either share double bonds with each other, or have a triple bond on one side and a single bond on the other. This unusual chemical bond formation makes the hypothetical compound extra hard to synthesize.

Led by Przemyslaw Gawel, a post-doctoral fellow at Oxford, the team of researchers adopted a unique approach for their synthesis route, or more accurately, "subtraction" route. They started with a larger molecule C24O6 (imagine a triangle carbon backbone with a couple of oxygens attached to each tip), and removed a pair of C=O at a time, using the high-vacuum chamber of an atomic-force microscope. After the removal of 6 carbon monoxide molecules, a cyclo[18]carbon emerged.

Their microscopic image showed that all the atoms in the C-18 ring are both triple- and single-bonded, which means that the carbon allotrope should be a semiconductor, like graphene. However, as emphasized by the researchers, it would take a lot more investigations and development to eventually turn this novel molecule into something practically useful like a molecular-sized transistor.

The groundbreaking study was published in the journal Science.

Making and Imaging Cyclocarbon (IBM Research)

Source: Nature News

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
NOV 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
How long does COVID-19 stay on surfaces?
NOV 24, 2020
How long does COVID-19 stay on surfaces?
New research published today in Physics of Fluids explores the drying times of COVID-19 on different think liquid film s ...
DEC 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
This microscope can see through an intact skull
DEC 03, 2020
This microscope can see through an intact skull
New research from a team at the Center for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics within the Institute of Basic Science (IB ...
DEC 19, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Urine Tests Sets Parents' Minds at Ease in Minutes After a Miscarriage Threat
DEC 19, 2020
Urine Tests Sets Parents' Minds at Ease in Minutes After a Miscarriage Threat
Researchers have developed a chip-based test that can determine pregnancy outcomes after the signs of a possible miscarr ...
JAN 17, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
JAN 17, 2021
New Way to Extract Energy from Black Holes
In his theory of general relativity, Einstein predicted that black holes harbor an enormous amount of energy. And now, r ...
JAN 25, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Optimizing laser beams in complex, irregular environments
JAN 25, 2021
Optimizing laser beams in complex, irregular environments
New research published in the acclaimed journal Nature Physics reports that researchers from Utrecht University in the N ...
FEB 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Protein Biophysics Revealed in Spiderweb/Dewdrop Interactions
FEB 04, 2021
Protein Biophysics Revealed in Spiderweb/Dewdrop Interactions
Just like oil and water are both liquids but they don't coalesce into one, it's thought that cells use phase separation ...
Loading Comments...