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UAlbany Group’s Work on Buckybowls Featured in Science

Research by Marina A. Petrukhina and team solves long-standing scientific mystery

ALBANY, N.Y.  (September 15, 2011) -- University at Albany associate professor Marina A. Petrukhina and her research team in the Department of Chemistry have solved a long-standing scientific mystery, according to the Aug. 19 issue of Science.

“Collectively, we have obtained clear-cut, consistent experimental evidence that allowed us to resolve an issue dating back to 1994, when an incorrect model was proposed for aggregation of corannulene tetra-anions,” said Petrukhina, who earned a master’s and a doctorate at Moscow State University and has a National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award to explore the reactivity and coordination limits of a new class of bowl-shaped polyaromatic molecules.

UAlbany's Marina Petrukhina has a National Science Foundation Career Award

Associate Professor of Chemistry Marina A. Petrukhina and her research team study buckybowls, a hot topic in chemistry.

The work reports the solid state structure formed by a highly reduced fullerene fragment -- the corannulene tetra-anion -- with the structural results being fully supported by spectroscopic data and theoretical calculations. The manuscript is co-authored by Alexander V. Zabula, Alexander S. Filatov, Sarah N. Spisak, and Andrey Yu. Rogachev.

What is a Buckybowl?

Fullerenes are a family of ball-shaped all-carbon molecules with great potential in industry. They look like soccer balls, similar to the geodesic domes created by architect and engineer R. Buckminster Fuller.

Corannulene, an open geodesic polyarene that maps onto the surface of fullerene but lacks its full closure, is considered a fragment of C60-buckminsterfullerene. The unique bowl shape paved the way for the term “buckybowl,” as known by the general public.

Six years after the discovery of fullerenes in 1985, Science magazine named them “molecule of the year” and declared it “the discovery most likely to shape the course of scientific research in the years ahead.” The scientists who discovered fullerenes won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996. Buckybowls constitute the newer class of carbon-rich molecules that are often used by chemists as models to study the property and reactivity of fullerenes.

Unraveling the Mystery

The structure revealed by Petrukhina’s group not only represents the first crystallographic characterization of the multiply-reduced curved polyaromatic species (a significant challenge on its own), but shows a higher degree of alkali metal inclusion compared to the graphite anodes commonly used in lithium ion batteries.

The results of Petrukhina’s research provide a new paradigm for lithium distribution between the curved carbon surfaces of buckybowls, fullerenes, and nanotubes. They should be important in understanding the lithium storage mechanism in the above-mentioned carbon-based materials, especially considering that general scientific interest in lithium batteries with novel carbon-based anode materials is now rapidly growing every day.

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