Issue Date: August 18, 2008
Higher Yielding Buckyball Synthesis
By capitalizing on a surface-catalyzed cyclodehydrogenation reaction, scientists in Spain have developed a synthesis that produces fullerene molecules in high yields (Nature 2008, 454, 865). Fullerenes, also known as buckyballs for their soccer-ball shapes, are typically made by vaporizing graphite—a method that works well but lacks the control of a rational synthesis. The new procedure, developed by Berta Gómez-Lor and José A. Martín-Gago at the Materials Science Institute of Madrid and coworkers, could give chemists a method for producing unusual buckyball variants and derivatives. The researchers used the method to prepare C60 and C57N3 fullerenes. They started out by synthesizing the propeller-shaped polyaromatic precursors C60H30 and C57H33N3, then deposited the precursors onto a catalytically active platinum surface by vacuum thermal evaporation. Annealing the material at 750 K prompts the cyclodehydrogenation reaction to take place, producing the desired fullerene in about 100% yield. It’s a vast improvement over a previous chemical synthesis of C60, which only produced the molecule with 1% yield. “We expect that this approach will allow the production of a range of other fullerenes and heterofullerenes, once suitable precursors are available,” the researchers note.
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