Letter

Nature 454, 865-868 (14 August 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07193; Received 13 July 2007; Accepted 19 June 2008

Fullerenes from aromatic precursors by surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation

Gonzalo Otero1,5, Giulio Biddau2,5, Carlos Sánchez-Sánchez1, Renaud Caillard1, María F. López1, Celia Rogero3, F. Javier Palomares1, Noemí Cabello4, Miguel A. Basanta2, José Ortega2, Javier Méndez1, Antonio M. Echavarren4, Rubén Pérez2, Berta Gómez-Lor1 & José A. Martín-Gago1,3

  1. Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid (CSIC), Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain
  2. Departamento de Física Teórica de la Materia Condensada, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain
  3. Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Carretera de Torrejón a Ajalvir, km 4, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain
  4. Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), Avinguda Països Catalans 16, 43007 Tarragona, Spain
  5. These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Berta Gómez-Lor1José A. Martín-Gago1,3 Correspondence and request of further information should be addressed to B.G.-L. (Email: bgl@icmm.csic.es) or J.A.M.-G. (Email: gago@icmm.csic.es).

Graphite vaporization provides an uncontrolled yet efficient means of producing fullerene molecules. However, some fullerene derivatives or unusual fullerene species might only be accessible through rational and controlled synthesis methods. Recently, such an approach has been used1 to produce isolable amounts of the fullerene C60 from commercially available starting materials. But the overall process required 11 steps to generate a suitable polycyclic aromatic precursor molecule, which was then dehydrogenated in the gas phase with a yield of only about one per cent. Here we report the formation of C60 and the triazafullerene C57N3 from aromatic precursors using a highly efficient surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation process. We find that after deposition onto a platinum (111) surface and heating to 750 K, the precursors are transformed into the corresponding fullerene and triazafullerene molecules with about 100 per cent yield. We expect that this approach will allow the production of a range of other fullerenes and heterofullerenes2, 3, once suitable precursors are available. Also, if the process is carried out in an atmosphere containing guest species, it might even allow the encapsulation of atoms or small molecules to form endohedral fullerenes4, 5.

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