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Buckyballs Polymerized Into Buckywires 71

Posted by kdawson
from the buck-for-your-thoughts dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Scientists have found a way to join buckyballs together so that they form buckywires. The wires form when buckyballs are dissolved in an aromatic hydrocarbon called 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene. The solvent links the balls together to make wires shaped like a string of pearls, which then precipitate out. This relatively simple procedure opens the door to industrial-scale manufacture. Buckywires ought to be efficient light harvesters because of their great surface area and the way they can conduct photon-liberated electrons. But perhaps the area of greatest interest is drug delivery. The researchers suggest that buckywires ought to be safer than carbon nanotubes because the production method is entirely metal-free. This contrasts with the production of nanotubes, which are formed in a reaction catalyzed by metallic nanoparticles."
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Buckyballs Polymerized Into Buckywires

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  • balls, my ass (Score:2, Informative)

    by monkeyboythom (796957)

    The wires form when buckyballs are dissolved in an aromatic hydrocarbon called 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene.

    Aromatic hydrocarbon, my ass. Those damn kids have been into my Scotch again.

  • Effect on computing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by abshack (1389985)
    How does this effect computing, I wonder. I've heard that buckyballs have some interesting electrical properties (in passing conversation so I can't recall what they are). Could someone elaborate on how "buckystrings" could be used for electrical applications?
  • Great (Score:4, Funny)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:47PM (#28351487) Homepage Journal

    So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

    • Re:Great (Score:4, Funny)

      by Eudial (590661) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:52PM (#28351561)

      So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

      It'll still tangle into a bucky-knot the moment it leaves your eyesight.

      • by kenp2002 (545495)

        It'll still tangle into a bucky-knot the moment it leaves your eyesight.

        And with diamond hard strength I'd wager I can cut it with a scissors....

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer (890720)

      So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

      Yes. Yes you can.

      2 cm diameter nylon rope will rarely break under normal fishing use.

      What... you wanted to be able to *catch* something with it?

      • Who says you can't catch anything with it? A shark? A small whale? Your mom maybe? Including some diseases... :P

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:49PM (#28351511)

    "Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace"

    Who would have guessed?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "That's not jewlery she's talkin bout. It really don't cost that much."

      • by R2.0 (532027)

        "That's not jewlery she's talkin bout. It really don't cost that much."

        Unless you are married. Then you pay.

        And pay...

        and pay...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Was ZZ Top involved in this research?

  • Applications? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:50PM (#28351541)
    If threads are created and those threads are woven into a fabric, then what kind of ballistic applications could we expect? Could panels be made from strands of buckysballs and into new car skins? Aircraft?
    • Holy Shit, I just spit out my soda.

      I don't think buckys balls are strong enough to skin anything!

      However buckyballs may be the next best thing if it can be made inexpensively.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Probably depends on the tensile properties. From what I gather, nanotubes and buckywires could have different characteristics there, since they don't really share the same structure. Without knowing any details, I wonder if the difference would make them more elastic... That would have a mix of effects on ballistics, I suppose.
    • Re:Applications? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Saysys (976276) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:07PM (#28351841)
      From: (PDF warning) http://www.davis-floyd.com/USERIMAGES/File/Bucky%20balls%20Fullereness%20and%20the%20future.pdf [davis-floyd.com]

      being the strong, macroscopic person that you are, you get a hold of this, and you stretch it and stretch it and stretch it, and before it breaks you can stretch it to 20 or 30 percent longer than it was to begin with. The tensile strength is very high.

      The indication is that when it finally does break, it doesn't break brittly but pulls out a little chain of carbon atoms the break is a plastic failure, not a brittle failure. One thing that we do know from actual tubes that have been made and distorted, is that you can take this tube and you can bend it. You can bend it so much that it buckles like a soda straw and then when you let go, it just snaps right back it does not break.

      So, any tube, like the soda straw, as you begin to bend it, the material of the soda straw at the top of the bend has to stretch and underneath, on the inside of the bend, so that the bending stiffness of it depends on just how hard it is to stretch that material and this is the hardest material in the universe to stretch, so the stiffness of this little nanotube will be higher than any other object you can build out of the tinker toy set, forever and anon.
    • Re:Applications? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheHawke (237817) <{rchapin} {at} {pelicancoast.net}> on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:40PM (#28352343)

      Clothlike photovolatics. You'd be quite literally wearing a patch of solar cells on your jacket, powering your appliances. Self-charging power cells, when it runs low, it'll tell you through audibles or a simple electroluminescent indicator. Just set it outside and it'll happily charge itself.

      New processes for PV's to be built. Self-charging billboards using LED's or other low voltage lighting, eliminating high powered spots that pollute the night sky. I don't know how they would stand up to the rigors of space travel, but I'll bet they'll come up with something, perhaps laminating BB PV's in Lexan or a similiar transparent material.

      Maybe a paint using them, making once again, self powered equipment, or hybrid wind generators that keep generating power even when the wind is calm!

      How are they at being a wearing face? New generations of bearing materials that have an even lower friction coefficient than the current materials.

      Also, new formulations for fuel using polymer chains of BB's maybe in order, making it an excellent replacement for sulfur as a lubricating additive.

    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      It is not possible to create fabrics woven from single molecule fibers, at least for now. And I would first expect such sort of thing done on more common polymers with more practical applications. But a "nano-fabric" could be interesting.

  • metal free...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @02:59PM (#28351719) Journal

    Metal free production is nice, but in the end, it's not just what is used in production, but how you take out the undesirable things.

    Benzene and many derivatives, are just as toxic (if not more so) than a lot of metals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      You mean apart from the nano-scale bucky balls and particles of them themselves?

      I don't think anyone has (or could) ever really test(ed) the effects of that stuff on your body and genetics.
      In the end, we will do what we always do. We will try it out on the people. And if it fails, someone will continue... Monsanto style.

    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      You argument is actually in favor of metal-free synthesis. Even if the solvent was toxic, you can just evaporate it, which is trivial. However, it is not. A small structural change can lead to a drastic change in toxicity: benzene is highly toxic and carcinogenic, toluene (methylbenzene) is not carcinogenic and only slightly toxic. I expect their solvent to be relatively non-toxic.

      On the other hand, metal contamination is an a very big problem, especially in drug synthesis. You can't easily get rid of trace

    • Re:metal free...? (Score:4, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @04:06PM (#28352695)

      Benzene boiling point 80 degrees C at STP

      Iron boiling point 2860 degrees C at STP

      It would seem much easier to vacuum distill benzene out of the buckywire product than iron, because of the difference in boiling points. If 80 degrees C is still too hot for buckywires, then vacuum distillation will work at a lower temperature. So the technology to separate the good from the bad is much easier with the benzene process so it'll probably be done better.

      Benzene traps are simple cheap and easy to use (well, relatively anyway), whereas nanoparticle "traps" are basically expensive filters that may or may not work and or be maintained, so just blowing filtered N2 thru the product and cleaning the contaminated N2 stream would probably work pretty well. Recycling benzene is simple, but I think all you can do with nanoparticles is bury them or maybe dissolve the whole filter in a super strong acid. So, trapping / recycling bad stuff using the benzene process is much simpler and easier to do, so it'll probably be done better.

      Finally monitoring benzene levels (to verify your containment is working, detect when it fails) is pretty trivial, but monitoring nanoparticle contamination levels is pretty much a mystery or at least not standardized. And when you have a spill, the fire department and EPA know exactly what to do with spilled benzene but would be mystified by nanoparticles. So, when the bad stuff inevitably gets released into the environment, "we" know exactly how to handle the benzene process, but not the nanoparticle process.

      Making eco-judgements about a chemistry topic, when all you can base it on is sloganeering like benzene is bad, is not going to result in useful judgments.

      Benzene and many derivatives, are just as toxic (if not more so) than a lot of metals.

      That's about as vague of a "statement" as can be made, but if you really believe it is true, we can set up a little wager and I'll wash my hands in a bucket of pure benzene if you'll agree to wash your hands or any other appendage with a mercury organometallic and we'll see who ends up healthier. Or if you don't like mercury organometallics, I'll let you chose any soluble lead compound. Or, how about a tasty ionic Uranium compound?

      • by gr8_phk (621180)

        It would seem much easier to vacuum distill benzene out of the buckywire product than iron

        Except that the Benzene is holding the buckballs together - it's part of the wire. The iron is not part of the end product, just the process. TFA has a nice picture showing 2 balls held together by a nice benzene ring with a few other atoms.

  • ...have you ever heard of Buckeywires?

  • by toppavak (943659) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @03:15PM (#28351941)

    This relatively simple procedure opens the door to industrial-scale manufacture

    No, it doesn't. There's no specificity, you can't control the polymerization to the extent needed to build something useful at the nanoscale, the wires are precipitating out of solution because they're attracted to themselves and each other more strongly than they're attracted to the solvent, that's a problem because you have no way of actually building anything with them. That's why people have been doing this sort of things with metal colloids for over a decade and there's been no "industrial-scale" use for them discovered in anything but colloidal form because you're basically just creating fancy-shaped aggregates. Until there's a technology available that will selectively aggregate nanoscale materials into arbitrary shapes (rather than a bunch of copies of the same repeating structure in solution) in a manner where certain shapes and functional units can be fixed to where they need to be on a chip or in a machine there isn't going to be a use.

    Interesting chemistry, but to imagine that nanotech has any applications that require more synthetic control than bulk colloids or coatings within the next decade (or 5) is pure hype.

    • I believe the item you quoted refers to industrial-scale manufacture of the buckywires themselves.

      While a number of possible applications are mentioned, none are anything more than speculation and neither of the two named (photovoltaics and drug-delivery) require the specificity you mention.

      One only needs to be able to "selectively aggregate nanoscale materials into arbitrary shapes" if one is making a complex nano-scale object. That is not what is mentioned in this article nor is it even implied.

    • Well, a polymer is nothing more than an aggregate of repeating units ... much like a Buckywire, in fact. And polymer chains can be tailored to be of specific (average) length, to have a certain average side-chain frequency and length, to have a given frequency of cross-linking, etc. So there's no reason why the kinetics of the wire-building reaction (for a reaction it is, whether chemical or physical), once they're understood, can't be utilized to customize the end-product. We do that all the time.

      I have
  • IIRC, chains of carbon nanotubes, graphene, buckyballs, and co. are prone to nasty weaknesses do to easily induced flaws in structures. So even if we could make a lot of this stuff, would it even be useful with these methods?
  • Buckyball's been around a while now, predates slashdot's existence, with whole buncha stories stories posted on slashdot over the years, but I can't recall a single substantial application. What are they?
    • by Tweenk (1274968) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @04:13PM (#28352791)

      Maybe because "buckyballs" is a "pop sci" term and you look funny using it. They are more often called fullerenes.
      Example of use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhondite [wikipedia.org]

      Fullerenes have little current practical use (they are rather expensive) but a lot of interesting potential uses, because you can trap things inside them: a lot of exotic materials can be made with them. There is even a purely organic compund (a mixed crystal of fullerene and a small organic compound) which exhibits ferromagnetic properties.

      • by oldhack (1037484)

        "Fullerenes have little current practical use (they are rather expensive) but a lot of interesting potential uses."

        So more/less same as decades ago, hence my question.

    • by smaddox (928261)

      They are used in every high efficiency organic solar cell.

      Then again, organic solar cells are still only in the lab, so you probably don't care.

    • by oldhack (1037484)

      "What are they?"

      I mean applications, not buckyball.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I can't recall a single substantial application. What are they?

      So far, most applications involve applications for grant money.

      Kim Allen's fullerene page is a pretty good reference in general.

      This sub page:

      http://kimallen.sheepdogdesign.net/Fuller/apps.html [sheepdogdesign.net]

      summarizes the current situation. Pretty much, nothing but a lot of wouldn't it be cool. Its the chemistry version of astronomy students pondering how cool it would be to have a warp drive, or poli-sci students dreaming of true communism.

      It is a geometrical-numerological approach to chemistry, encouraged by occasion

  • You had me at "drug delivery."
  • The article is kinda light on details. So, to you chemists out there, what controls where and how many times the trimethylbenzene bonds to the Buckyball? Why doesn't it form all sorts of bonds all over the ball and cause a giant, crystalized glop of randomly bonded Bucky-snot to precipitate out?

    • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @07:05PM (#28355019) Homepage
      The bonding is controlled by both the thermodynamics of the multi-bonded fullerenes, as well as the kinetics involved in multiple crosslinkings, forcing fullerenes next to each other. If you read the actual article, the evidence suggests that the fullerenes are slowly polymerizing, and crosslinking - an NMR spectrum after several months implies that it actually is one, big, horrible mess (or not fullerenes anymore, depending on how skeptical you are of this).
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you read the actual article, the evidence suggests that the fullerenes are slowly polymerizing, and crosslinking - an NMR spectrum after several months implies that it actually is one, big, horrible mess (or not fullerenes anymore, depending on how skeptical you are of this).

        Yeah that bugged me too. It's pretty common knowledge in the fullerene chemistry community that if you leave a fullerene sample in a solvent for long enough, it will break down/polymerize/what-have-you. The article is pretty heavily padded, if you ask me. They essentially pulled a year-old sample out of the drawer, couldn't get it to dissolve, and did some work to indicate that the stuff had polymerized. That in and of itself is pretty interesting, but 'metal-free?' Gimme a break. Most industrial scal

  • by Wdi (142463) on Tuesday June 16, 2009 @05:20PM (#28353847)

    According to the image in the article, the individual buckyballs are linked by SP3 carbons (@-CH2-Phi-CH2-@) from the solvent. This means, there is no pi electron system, and therefore no electrical connectivity, between the buckyball entities. The physical characteristics of this material are vastly different from nanotubes, which are a single extended pi system. I highly doubt that this stuff can be a replacement for any application which requires long-distance electron flow, such as light harvesting, microelectronics, etc.

    • by Mal-2 (675116)

      Benzene is conductive because it has "floating" double bonds in its six-carbon ring. This may leave enough electrons free to conduct between buckyballs.

      Mal-2

  • ... Elmer Snodgrass of Mayberry, Kansas has been collecting Buckywires for the past 35 years, wrapping them up to create the worlds largest Buckyball.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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