Small success

August 4, 2000

Chemists at the University of Sussex have fabricated a series of novel molecular structures ranging from hollow cylinders to solid wires and tubes containing metal cores.

The structures will boost the spectrum of materials available for developing sub-microscopic devices for nanotechnology. The work is being carried out by researchers at Sussex led by Harry Kroto and David Walton. The project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Since the discovery by Sir Harold Kroto and co-workers in 1985 of a new type of carbon molecule they called a fullerene, consisting of 60 atoms arranged as a hollow sphere, there has been huge interest in other forms of carbon.

In 1991, a Japanese scientist, Sumio Iijima, passed a direct current between two graphite electrodes and created hollow cylinders consisting of rolled up sheets of carbon. These were called nanotubes because their dimensions are of the order of nanometres (millionths of a millimetre).

Nanotubes are extremely strong yet very light. They also have unique electronic properties.

The Sussex team is investigating ways of making nanoscale structures consisting of carbon and of other elements. The aim is to improve the understanding of how better to control the dimensions and geometrical alignment of the structures - factors that are essential to future applications.

Details: www. sussex.ac.uk/Users/ kroto/people.htm

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