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
SEP 03, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
SEP 03, 2020
Nuclear Pioneers Joined Force to Fast-Track Clean Energy Tech
Last week, TerraPower, a Bill Gates-backed nuclear startup, announced its latest project - a collaboration with GE Hitac ...
SEP 06, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
The fluid dynamics of pelagic snails' movement
SEP 06, 2020
The fluid dynamics of pelagic snails' movement
Warm water pelagic snails don’t get much attention, but they certainly should. The snails move between ocean surfa ...
SEP 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
SEP 16, 2020
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a technique to control the size and composition of sub-n ...
SEP 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Molecule take images of itself with its own electrons
SEP 18, 2020
Molecule take images of itself with its own electrons
A new study published in Physical Review Letters highlights the development of an approach to observe time-dependent cha ...
SEP 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Toward Understanding Anesthesia
SEP 18, 2020
Toward Understanding Anesthesia
General anesthesia refers to the medical procedure anesthesiologists applies to patients, in order to induce paraly ...
OCT 22, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
OCT 22, 2020
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
Nuclear fusion is the frontier of energy research, and NASA has a plan to bring this state-of-the-art power source to th ...
Loading Comments...