Boron atoms take on buckyball shape

Forty boron atoms can take the shape of a hollow cage similar to the structure of carbon buckyballs.

Wang lab/Brown University; adapted by E. Otwell

Boron atoms just got buckyballed. With a bit of coaxing from lasers and helium, clusters of 40 boron atoms arranged themselves into hollow cages similar to the nanoscale soccer-ball shape of carbon buckyballs.

Scientists had previously predicted that boron atoms could take the shape of a buckyball, but the first observations of the new molecule show that it has a slightly different structure than expected.

The boron “buckyball” is made of 40 boron atoms instead of 80, as predicted, and the atoms are arranged in triangles, hexagons and heptagons rather than the pentagons and hexagons of a carbon buckyball, researchers report July 13 in Nature Chemistry. The molecule could be used to make new boron nanomaterials or possibly even store hydrogen, the scientists say. 

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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