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Paul Dunk, a chemist in the MagLab's Ion Cyclotron Resonance Facility, has published a paper on so-called "nanocages" formed by combining graphite, a two-dimensional form of carbon, with different metals. The research, Transformation of doped graphite into cluster-encapsulated fullerene cages, appeared this week in Nature Communications.

For the research, Dunk and his collaborators created metallofullerenes, molecules that consist of a ball-like carbon structure that encompasses several atoms inside of it — hence the term "nanocage."

Dunk and his colleagues tested theories of how these compounds form by looking for hypothesized intermediate molecules between the original reactants and end products. They demonstrated that, unlike what many scientists believed, the cages do not shrink from or break off of larger globs of carbon, but rather nucleate around the metal, carbon atom by carbon atom.

The findings could help in the future development of nanocage-related technologies ranging from new light-based electronics to molecular electronics.

Dunk's research was done in collaboration with scientists at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Read more about this research in the MagLab's fields magazine.

Image of nanocages by Paul Dunk/Caroline McNiel.

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