Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Buckyballs Polymerized to Form Buckywires

Add a drop of oil to buckyballs, and they join together to form wires like strings of pearls.

Finally! Something useful from buckyballs.

Junfeng Geng at the University of Cambridge, in the U.K., and buddies have found a way to polymerize these microballs so that they line up into buckywires.

The trick that Geng and co have found is a way to connect two buckyballs together using a molecule of 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene–a colorless aromatic hydrocarbon. Repeat that and you’ve got a way to connect any number of buckyballs. And to prove it, the researchers have created and studied these buckywires in their lab, saying that the wires are highly stable.

Buckywires ought to be handy for all kinds of biological, electrical, optical, and magnetic applications. The gist of the paper is that anything that traditional carbon nanotubes can do, buckywires can do better. Or at least more cheaply.

The exciting thing about this breakthrough is the potential to grow buckywires on an industrial scale from buckyballs dissolved in a vat of bubbling oil. Since the buckywires are insoluble, they precipitate out, forming crystals. (Here it ought to be said that various other groups are said to have made buckywires of one kind or another, but none seem to have nailed it from an industrial perspective.)

So what might buckywires be good for? First up is photovoltaics: these buckywires look as if they could be hugely efficient light harvesters because of their great surface area and the way that they can conduct photon-liberated electrons. Then there are various electronic applications in wiring up molecular circuit boards.

But perhaps the area of greatest interest is drug delivery. Geng and co suggest that buckywires ought to be safer than carbon nanotubes because the production method is entirely metal-free. That cannot be said of nanotubes because the reaction that forms them is catalyzed by metallic nanoparticles.

So it looks as if buckywires could have a healthy future. And in the nick of time: it’s only been 25 years since buckyballs were the next big thing.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0906.2216: Synthesis of a Fullerene-Based One-Dimensional Nanopolymer Through Topochemical Transformation of the Parent Nanowire

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.