Scientists at the University of Basel were able to identify for the first time a molecule responsible for the absorption of starlight in space: the positively charged Buckminsterfullerene, or so-called football molecule. Their results have been published in the current issue of Nature.
Almost 100 years ago, astronomers discovered that the spectrum of star light arrived on earth with dark gaps, so-called interstellar bands. Ever since, researchers have been trying to find out which type of matter in space absorbs the light and is responsible for these “diffuse interstellar bands” (DIB) of which over 400 are known today.
Football molecule and interstellar clouds
Astronomers have been suspecting for a while that big complex molecules and gaseous ions based on carbon could be absorbing the starlight. The Buckminsterfullerene is such a molecule: a structure made up of 60 carbon atoms shaped like a football that was first discovered in the mid-1980s.
After this discovery, the questions arose if it was possible that the football molecule was in fact responsible for the DIB. The research team led by Prof. John P. Maier from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Basel has been studying the electronic absorption of the ionized Buckminsterfullerene since 1993. In fact, the spectrum measured in the lab did show absorption features at two wavelengths that were near two DIB that had been discovered by astronomers the following year.
Conditions similar to outer space
In order to unequivocally prove that these molecules absorb starlight and thus produce the DIB, a gas phase spectrum of the ion was needed. The Basel researchers now succeeded at this: “This is the very first unequivocal identification of such a molecule in the interstellar clouds”, says Professor John P. Maier. “We have achieved a breakthrough in solving the old riddle of the diffuse interstellar bands.”
In order to obtain the spectrum in the laboratory using a diode laser, several thousand ionized Fullerenes were confined in a radiofrequency trap and cooled down by collisions with high density helium to very low temperatures of around 6 degree Kelvin – conditions very similar to outer space.
The absorptions measured in the laboratory coincide exactly with the astronomical data, and have comparable bandwidths and relative intensities. This identifies for the first time two DIB and proves that ionized Buckminsterfullerene (C60+) is present at the gas-phase in space. “This is remarkable, considering the complexity of this molecular ion and the presence of high-energy radiation in such an environment”, says Maier.
E. K. Campbell, M. Holz, D. Gerlich & J. P. Maier
Laboratory confirmation of C60+ as carrier of two diffuse interstellar bands
Nature (2015), doi: 10.1038/nature14566
Professor John P. Maier, University of Basel, Department of Chemistry, phone: +41 61 267 38 26, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivia Poisson | Universität Basel
Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.01.2018 | Life Sciences