Objects with icosahedral symmetry (Ih) bear a special fascination; natural examples are rare, but include radiolaria1 and virus particles (virions)2. The discovery3 of C60, a molecule in the shape of a truncated icosahedron with Ih symmetry, has aroused widespread interest. In 1962, Mackay4 described a radiating packing of spheres in Ih symmetry, in which the centres of successive shells of spheres lie on the surfaces of icosahedra. There has been extensive investigation of the conditions under which such packing might be realized in assemblies of atoms or of molecules such as C60 (ref. 5). Here we report the preparation, at high temperatures and pressures, of boron suboxide (B6O) in which the preferred form of the material is as macroscopic, near-perfect, regular icosahedra, similar to the multiply-twinned particles observed in some cubic materials. A major difference is that B6O has a rhombohedral structure that nearly exactly fits the geometrical requirements needed to obtain icosahedral twins. These icosahedral particles have a structure that can be described as a Mackay packing of icosahedral B12 units, and thus has long-ranged order without translational symmetry.
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We thank K. Leinenweber for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation.
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Journal of Materials Chemistry C (2019)
Journal of the American Ceramic Society (2019)
Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids (2019)
Chemical Science (2019)
Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (2019)