Diamond-like Nanothreads Form Under Extreme Pressure | September 29, 2014 Issue - Vol. 92 Issue 39 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 92 Issue 39 | p. 7 | News of The Week
Issue Date: September 29, 2014 | Web Date: September 26, 2014

Diamond-like Nanothreads Form Under Extreme Pressure

Molecular Discovery: Slow compression and decompression of benzene yields new class of crystalline nanomaterial
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE, Nano SCENE, Organic SCENE
Keywords: diamond nanothreads, benzene, high-pressure experiments, nanomaterials, materials science
Applied slowly, high pressure fuses stacks of benzene into 6-Å-thick strands.
Credit: John Badding Lab/Penn State U
Structure of carbon nanothread made by slowly compressing and then decompressing liquid benzene in a diamond-anvil cell.
Applied slowly, high pressure fuses stacks of benzene into 6-Å-thick strands.
Credit: John Badding Lab/Penn State U

Using a high-pressure device at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, graduate student Thomas C. Fitzgibbons recently transformed a few cubic millimeters of liquid benzene into a white, crystalline powder. The solid was made of a substance never before observed: ultrathin threads of carbon atoms bound to one another in a pattern resembling diamond (Nat. Mater. 2014, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4088).

The threads, Fitzgibbons and colleagues hope, might one day be used to make strong, lightweight materials for vehicles and other objects.

Creating ordered nanomaterials from organic molecules such as benzene has been a longtime goal of the group, says John V. Badding, who is Fitzgibbons’s Ph.D. adviser at Pennsylvania State University. In the past, when Badding and his team put the squeeze on benzene, they produced only disordered substances, though. This time, crystalline order seems to have arisen because “the apparatus Tom used required us to compress and decompress slowly,” Badding explains.

Fitzgibbons ramped up to a pressure 200,000 times that of Earth’s atmosphere and back down over 20 hours. This glacial pace, the team proposes, allowed stacks of benzenes to poly­merize slowly enough to form the 6-Å-thick ordered threads (structure shown).

“This is pioneering work,” says Roald Hoffmann, a theoretical chemist at Cornell University. Hoffmann, who collaborates with Badding, predicted a structure related to that of the nanothreads while studying benzene polymerization a few years ago.

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Pamela B Kamga (October 2, 2014 8:12 AM)
Great! this could be the future of cheaper but more protective cars and vehicles. Pamela
laurenkwolf (October 5, 2014 5:19 PM)
Hi Pamela, thanks for writing in! I agree that this could definitely have an impact on transportation. The next challenge for these folks (aside from better understanding how the threads form) is to figure out how to make more of the material.

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