Science blog
Orbital mechanics affect methane levels
Antarctic lake keeps its secrets for now
How snakes lost their legs
Researchers ponder cancer origins
Forming social networks a no-brainer
'Niceness' partly genetic, say scientists
Omega-3 may keep blindness at bay
Coral shines light on rainfall records
Old bone proves Lucy was no swinger
Scientists unlock cosmic ice riddle
Study links pesticides to Parkinson's
Digital world growing faster every year
Energy drinks put kids at risk: report
Robotics speed up cancer drug development
Zinc cuts short the common cold
Counting kicks in at 18 months
NASA spacecraft unravels comet mystery
Astronomers dig up cannibalised galaxy
Study links extreme weather to climate change
Turkey quake gives warning clues
US scientists build first 'antilaser'
Website meltdown leaves scientists fuming
Earth 'unrecognisable' by 2050: experts
Canola fungus genome unravelled
Putting the bounce in carbon balls
Carbon is known as the hardest element on Earth, and now it seems it could be our squishiest as well.

New research overturns the long-held belief that gels are always made from at least two components, a solvent and a solid, binding the substance together in loose networks.

Dr Patrick Royall at the University of Bristol in the UK and Dr Stephen Williams, of the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University, have discovered that C60, the spherical form of carbon, can transform itself into a gel.

C60, which has a crystal lattice of interlocking pentagons and hexagons just like an old-fashioned soccer ball, is commonly referred to as a buckyball.

The paper by Royall and Williams has been accepted for publication in a special edition of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Williams says their finding is based on computer simulations, which show C60 can form into a stable gel if heated rapidly to just over 2000C and then cooled in less than a billionth of a second to about 27C.

The computer simulations showed that the C60 gel formed in 10 nanoseconds. The loosely connected solid network that emerged behaved like a wobbly gel. The simulation showed it to be stable at room temperature for at least 100 nanoseconds, which was the longest the simulations ran.

Williams believes the gel could remain stable for even longer at lower temperatures.

"If you drop the temperature a fraction more it should become stable for a lot longer," he says.

He says under low density and high temperatures, C60 "gets to the point where it wants to go from being a gas to a liquid".

During this so-called phase separation, he says, the molecules form a network of clusters that do not fit together, but are bound together by liquid droplets.

The finding means carbon can not only form diamond, graphite, graphene and an infinite number of carbon 'chickenwire' structures such as tubes and footballs, it can also be a jelly.
Entirely theoretical at this stage

Williams says he does not know if it will be possible to prove the simulation experimentally, mainly due to the difficulty of cooling the molecule quickly enough and stopping the process at the correct temperature.

But he says the finding opens the door to asking whether other elements can also make single-component gels.

"If C60 can do it other things should be able to do it as well," says Williams.

Brain efficiency comes from parents
Backward bending light key to stealth
Signs of 'alien life' found in meteorites
Accurate blood test for Down's
Disaster volunteers at risk: study
Elephants smart as chimps, dolphins
Gadgets ruining people's sleep
Why skin doesn't dissolve in the bath
Astronomers find old heads in a young crowd
Paper leads to perfect beer head
Researchers locate brain's loudness map
Jamming may leave GPS in the wilderness
Pain washes guilt away
Quake could alter Tokyo risk: experts
Japan meltdown not like Chernobyl: expert
Dreamtime astronomers understood meteors
CERN restarts search for cosmic origins
Nuclear Contamination: What to Do
Bet-hedging 'key to natural selection'
Humans age same as other primates
US overdue, under-prepared for huge quake
Sperm's egg-seeking secrets revealed
Lasers to nudge space junk out harm's way
Researchers uncover gastro's sugary secret
Kepler probes inside swollen red giant
Randomness could 'improve democracy'
Moonageddon: Apocalypse not
Museum unveils Columbian mammoth
Ink-jet inspire scientists to make skin
Seaweed offers clues against malaria
Christchurch quakes may be connected
Solar storms pose risk to technology
Study finds fences thwart cane toad
Mobile phone alters brain activity
Sticky dots approved for clinical trial
Humans stink worse than other animals
Putting the bounce in carbon balls
Sulphur secrets uncovered
Cool laser makes atoms march in time
Hot flashes may be a sign of good heart
Scientists see the birth of a new planet
X-ray expectations change search methods
Eucalypt-harming fungus here to stay
Life elements came from outer space
Cricket wimps use perfume to find mates
Orphan planets could support life
Speech lights up visual cortex in blind
How the Sun loses its spots
Cancer resistance mechanism found
Fungus turns Amazonian ants into zombies
Tiny grains record solar system's infancy
Antarctic ice forming beneath glaciers
Visit Statistics