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The discovery of carbon nanostructures like two-dimensional graphene and soccer ball-shaped buckyballs helped to launch a nanotechnology revolution. In recent years, researchers from Brown University and elsewhere have shown that boron, carbon's neighbor on the periodic table, can make interesting nanostructures too, including two-dimensional borophene and a buckyball-like hollow cage structure called borospherene.

Now, researchers from Brown and Tsinghua University have added another boron nanostructure to the list. In a paper published in Nature Communications, they show that clusters of 18 and three atoms of lanthanide elements form a bizarre cage-like structure unlike anything they've ever seen.

"This is just not a type of structure you expect to see in chemistry," said Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown and the study's senior author. "When we wrote the paper we really struggled to describe it. It's basically a spherical trihedron. Normally you can't have a closed three-dimensional structure with only three sides, but since it's spherical, it works."

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Category: Science