We’ve come a long way from the first glass-and-light optical microscopes. These days, scientists can focus on individual molecules using advanced methods like atomic force microscopy (AFM), where a miniscule probe feels out the details of a surface. And in this AFM image of a nanographene molecule, the resolution is so high that for the first time, we can see the individual bonds between atoms, shown here as green lines.
In a new paper in the journal Science, IBM researchers used the same imaging technique to measure the length and relative strength of individual bonds in the spherical carbon molecules called buckyballs. Their method can not only improve our intimate understanding of these and other molecules—it also lets us get up close and personal with the building blocks of all matter.
Image courtesy of IBM Research – Zurich / Flickr
The graphene filled in the smaller hole with fresh
Due to their extraordinary abilities, graphene and other one-atom-thick molecules like carbon nanotubes have enormous potential for use in fields from electronics to medicine. For example, graphene is physically strong, transparent, flexible, and a great conductor of both electricity and heat—and now the two-dimensional carbon molecule can add another power to its roster: self-healing. When researchers made holes in a graphene sheet, the molecule rebuilt its own structure using new carbon atoms. This ability might help researchers grow graphene in large quantities and specific shapes.
A couple of new exoplanets are leaving researchers scratching their heads in confusion.
So bright, so vivid! So prismatic!
A planet called WASP-12b is the first planet that’s been found to have more carbon than oxygen in its atmosphere, unlike most planets in our solar system. In the paper published in Nature, researchers suggest that the gas giant probably has a carbon-based core. And all that carbon has set the researchers eyes a-sparkle with possibilities:
The researchers say their discovery supports the idea there may be carbon-rich, rocky planets whose terrains are made up of diamonds or graphite. “You might see land masses and mountains made up of diamonds,” [said] lead researcher Dr Nikku Madhusudhan. [BBC News]
The alien planet was discovered in 2009 and is about 870 light-years away. It’s about 1.4 times as massive as Jupiter and sits just 2 percent as far from its parent star as the Earth is from the sun. Sadly, we can’t go mining there, since the hypothetical diamonds are surrounded by the gas giant’s scorching atmosphere (4,200 degrees Fahrenheit) of hydrogen. Even if you got down to its rocky core, any diamonds would likely be mixed in with graphite and even liquid carbon.
“This study shows that there is this extreme diversity out there,” study lead author Nikku Madhusudhan, now of Princeton University, told SPACE.com. “Fifteen years or so since the discovery of the first exoplanet, we’re just beginning to appreciate how different they can be.” [Space.com]
The days of blasting off into the temporary weightlessness of suborbital space are fast approaching—for people with the right stuff in their bank accounts, anyway. Some scientists fear, though, that once the space tourism business becomes established, a steady train of people hurtling into euphoria at the borderline of space could have climactic consequences down here on the surface.
They’re talking about soot. Soot or black carbon, which comes from fuel that does not burn completely, ought to be a more high-profile climate villain than it is, and it would be easier to contain than the carbon dioxide emissions we’re more worried about. According to a team led by Martin Ross, craft flying at such great heights would leave a trail of soot that wind and weather patterns could not reach, leaving it to hang around there and interfere with climate patterns. They published their model (paper in press) of this scenario in Geophysical Research Letters.
Ross’ team presumed 1,000 suborbital flights a year by a decade from now, and plugged in the estimated emissions to see what would happen. They modeled all the flights as coming over Spaceport America, the Virgin Galactic-backed New Mexico spaceport.
Akira Suzuki, Ei-ichi Negishi, and Richard Heck.
These three scientists won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry this morning for their discoveries that made it easier and cheaper to build long carbon chains in the lab, and use those chains to develop new drugs, build electronics, and more.
Despite the ubiquity of carbon chains in nature, they’re hard to make in the lab at room temperature. The three chemists independently created essentially the same way to skirt this problem, using palladium to link carbon atoms through a process called palladium-catalyzed cross coupling. The palladium is a go-between, bonding to carbon to bring its atoms closer to one another than they could go on their own. The carbons then break their attachment to palladium and bond together in chains.
The wonder material snagged the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics today, bringing the award to Russian scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov who work at the University of Manchester in the U.K.
Novoselov and Geim didn’t discover graphene, which is made of sheets of carbon just one atom thick. Physicists had known about it for years, but these two showed the way to produce it quickly and easily.
Novoselov was a postdoctoral fellow working in Geim’s lab in 2004 when the researchers discovered that they could make atomically thin slabs of carbon by repeatedly cleaving graphite—essentially pencil lead—with adhesive tape. Their 2004 Science paper describing the material and its the electrical properties has already been cited more than 3,000 times, according to Thomson Web of Science. [Scientific American]
100 gigahertz of processing power—not bad for a single sheet of atoms.
In a paper in Science, researchers at IBM say they have created the fastest-ever graphene transistor, with a cut-off frequency (the highest it can go without significant signal degradation) that at 100 GHz is nearly four times higher than their previous attempt. Similar silicon-based transistors have only been able to reach a turtle-like clock rate of about 40 GHz, or 40 billion cycles per second.