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Researchers Discover Boron “Buckyball”

July 10, 2014

Lai-Sheng Wang (middle) and graduate students Wei-Li Li (left) and Zachary Piazza (right).

The discovery of buckyballs — soccer-ball-shaped molecules of carbon — helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang’s research group, including Chemistry doctoral students Wei-Li Li and Zachary Piazza, and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation. The researchers dubbed their newfound nanostructure “borospherene.”

Researchers from Brown University, Shanxi University and Tsinghua University in China have shown that a cluster of 40 boron atoms forms a hollow molecular cage similar to a carbon buckyball. It’s the first experimental evidence that a boron cage structure — previously only a matter of speculation — does indeed exist.
“This is the first time that a boron cage has been observed experimentally,” said Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown who led the team that made the discovery. “As a chemist, finding new molecules and structures is always exciting. The fact that boron has the capacity to form this kind of structure is very interesting.”

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article on Buckyballs