Once merely a figment of imagination, the pure Carbon-18 ring has now materialized into our lives. Estimated to have semiconductor properties, it offers great scope for technological developments and now opens up “a new field of investigation,” according to Yoshito Tobe, a chemist at Osaka University in Japan.
If we trace back carbon-18’s story, it all starts when Nobel prize winning chemist Roald Hoffman and his team theorised that carbon’s ability to bond with two other carbons by a double bond on each side or a single bond on one side and a triple bond on the other, can lead to the formation of a carbon ring. However, teams who attempted to bring this molecule into existence this way failed as the chemical structure would be too reactive and they just had to include other elements; making a ring of pure carbon seemed impossible.
That was until the chemists, Lorel Scriven and Przemyslaw Gawel of University of Oxford, UK, found a way to use standard “wet” chemistry to create carbon rings with oxygen containing four carbon square chains. These samples were then sent to IBM laboratories in Zurich, Switzerland, where the carbon-oxygen rings were placed on a layer of sodium chloride in a vacuum. The rings were manipulated one at a time with electric currents to remove the oxygen containing parts, aided by an atomic force microscope leaving, voilà, a pure carbon ring.
However, research needs to be done as to alternate ways to create it on a large scale and whether or not it can remain outside sodium chloride.