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
Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München
Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences