Buckywires on Industrial Scale: New Delivery Potential

June 17, 2009 | Contact Author | By: Rae Grabenhofer
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Junfeng Geng and colleagues at the University of Cambridge have polymerized buckyballs in such a way that they line up into "buckywires," according to Technology Review, a blog published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To connect the buckyballs, Geng et al. used a molecule of 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene—a colorless aromatic hydrocarbon, which is repeated. The researchers created and studied these buckywires in their lab, and found them to be highly stable.

According to the report, buckywires could be useful in biological, electrical, optical and magnetic applications. Essentially, buckywires are applicable in place of traditional carbon nanotubes and may work better, or at least cheaper. Interestingly, the potential exists to grow buckywires on an industrial scale from buckyballs dissolved in oil. Since the buckywires are insoluble, they precipitate out, forming crystals. It should be noted, according to the report, that other groups claim to have made buckywires, but until now, their possibility for industrial scale-up was not determined.

While these buckywires have potential for electronic applications, perhaps an area of greatest interest is in drug delivery. According to the report, Geng et al. suggest the buckywires ought to be safer than carbon nanotubes since the production method is metal-free.

Since it has been 20+ years since the discovery of buckyballs, a refresher from Wikipedia states the fullerene family of carbon allotropes are molecules composed entirely of carbon in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, tube or plane. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes. Here, the researchers have expanded them to buckywires—potentially interesting for delivery applications in personal care.