By Will Soutter
Scientists have revealed how smaller molecules can be imprisoned within a carbon molecule. This allows the study of wave-like behavior which is considered to be a fundamental property of matter.
An imprisoned water molecule inside the endofullerene 'cage'
The bucky ball, which is a hollow spherical C60 Buckminsterfullerene, has a nano-metre sized cavity. This can be considered as a ‘nanolaboratory.’ The researchers imprisoned H2 and H2O molecules in this nanolaboratory where they ‘quantum rattled’ in these cages. This enables study of quantum mechanical principles of the molecule.
When water molecules are inside these bucky balls, a guest molecule having an electric dipole moment exists. This study may be useful in the field of molecular electronics.
The C60 Buckminsterfullerene had been discovered by Professors Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley and Robert Curl, which earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Termed ‘bucky ball’, it is a spherical cage-like structure resembling a soccer ball that consists of 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons.
Recently, scientists in Japan used a molecular surgery technique to open the C60 Buckminsterfullerene cage and pushed in a water or H2 molecule under high pressure and temperature. The system was cooled and then repaired in order to reproduce a C60 Buckminsterfullerene.
Researchers at The University of Nottingham used the inelastic neutron scattering technique, which involved using a beam of neutrons, for studying the cage rattling movements of the guest molecules. The study provided information about the rotational and orbital motion of the H2 and H2O molecules within the buckyball.
At The University of Southampton, researchers used nuclear magnetic resonance for studying the caged molecules. These molecules followed the laws of quantum mechanics and demonstrated a wave-like nature. This material may possibly be used for applications such as novel types of memory and for increasing the brightness of MRI scan images.
Scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Estonia, and Japan took part in the research, which has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.