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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    et al. A rational chemical synthesis of C60. Science 295, 1500–1503 (2002)

  2. 2.

    , , , & Isolation of the heterofullerene C59N as its dimer (C59N)2. Science 269, 1554–1556 (1995)

  3. 3.

    & Heterofullerenes. Chem. Rev. 106, 5191–5207 (2006)

  4. 4.

    , & Encapsulation of molecular hydrogen in fullerene C60 by organic synthesis. Science 307, 238–240 (2005)

  5. 5.

    et al. Carbon monoxide inside an open-cage fullerene. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 45, 5337–5340 (2006)

  6. 6.

    , & Synthesis of ‘crushed fullerene’ C60H30. Chem. Commun. 2431–2432 (1999)

  7. 7.

    et al. Zipping up ‘the crushed fullerene’ C60H30: C60 by fifteen-fold, consecutive intramolecular H2 losses. Chem. Commun. 370–371 (2002)

  8. 8.

    & Synthesis of a triaza analogue of crushed-fullerene by intramolecular palladium catalysed arylation. Org. Lett. 6, 2993–2996 (2004)

  9. 9.

    , , , & Multicenter approach to the exchange-correlation interactions in ab initio tight-binding methods. Phys. Rev. B 71, 235101 (2005)

  10. 10.

    et al. First-principles simulation: ideas, illustrations and the CASTEP code. J. Phys. Condens. Matter 14, 2717–2744 (2002)

  11. 11.

    , , & STM study of the initial stages of C60 adsorption on the Pt(110)-(1×2) surface. Appl. Surf. Sci. 252, 5534–5537 (2006)

  12. 12.

    , & Mobility and bonding transition of C60 on Pd(110). Phys. Rev. B 64, 161403 (2001)

  13. 13.

    et al. X-ray-diffraction characterization of Pt(111) surface nanopatterning induced by C60 adsorption. Nature Mater. 4, 688–692 (2005)

  14. 14.

    et al. Temperature-dependent self-assemblies of C60 on (1 × 2)-Pt(110): A STM/DFT investigation. J. Phys. Chem. C 112, 378–390 (2008)

  15. 15.

    et al. Seeing molecular orbitals. Chem. Phys. Lett. 321, 78–82 (2000)

  16. 16.

    & Orientationally ordered (7 × 7) superstructure of C60 on Au(111). Phys. Rev. Lett. 99, 226105 (2007)

  17. 17.

    et al. Electronic structure of carbon nitride thin films studied by X-ray spectroscopy techniques. Thin Solid Films 471, 19–34 (2005)

  18. 18.

    Synthesis of PtNx films by reactive laser ablation. Mater. Lett. 58, 2178–2180 (2004)

  19. 19.

    , & Dehydrogenation of aromatic molecules under a scanning tunnelling microscope: Pathways and inelastic spectroscopy simulations. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 129, 4298–4305 (2007)

  20. 20.

    Ring opening reactions of fullerenes: Designed approaches to endohedral metal complexes. Top. Curr. Chem. 199, 67–91 (1999)

  21. 21.

    , & Synthesis, structure, and properties of novel open-cage fullerenes having heteroatom(s) on the rim of the orifice. Chem. Eur. J. 9, 1600–1609 (2003)

  22. 22.

    , & Variation of surface-reaction probability with reactant angle of incidence – molecular-beam study of asymmetry of stepped platinum crystal-surfaces for H-H bond breaking. Phys. Rev. Lett. 38, 1027–1029 (1977)

Download references


Authors acknowledge financial support from the national Spanish funding agency DGICYT-MEC (programmes MAT, CONSOLIDER and CTQ) and the ICIQ Foundation. Computer time was provided by the Spanish National Supercomputing Network at the MareNostrun (BSC) and Magerit (CESVIMA) supercomputers.

Author Contributions G.O. performed the experimental work related to the UHV system. G.B. performed the ab initio calculations. C.S.-S., R.C., M.F.L., C.R., F.J.P. and J.M. helped with STM-STS, TDS and XPS experiments and preliminary synchrotron radiation measurements. A.M.E and B.G.-L. designed and synthesized the planar precursors of (hetero)fullerenes. N.C. performed the mass spectrometry experiments. M.A.B. and J.O. wrote part of the calculation code and input and made preliminary calculations. The work was coordinated by B.G.-L. (chemistry), R.P. (theory) and J.A.M.-G. (experiment: UHV-STM molecular deposition, characterization and cyclization).

Author information

Author notes

    • Gonzalo Otero
    •  & Giulio Biddau

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid (CSIC), Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain

    • Gonzalo Otero
    • , Carlos Sánchez-Sánchez
    • , Renaud Caillard
    • , María F. López
    • , F. Javier Palomares
    • , Javier Méndez
    • , Berta Gómez-Lor
    •  & José A. Martín-Gago
  2. Departamento de Física Teórica de la Materia Condensada, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain

    • Giulio Biddau
    • , Miguel A. Basanta
    • , José Ortega
    •  & Rubén Pérez
  3. Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), Carretera de Torrejón a Ajalvir, km 4, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, Spain

    • Celia Rogero
    •  & José A. Martín-Gago
  4. Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), Avinguda Països Catalans 16, 43007 Tarragona, Spain

    • Noemí Cabello
    •  & Antonio M. Echavarren


  1. Search for Gonzalo Otero in:

  2. Search for Giulio Biddau in:

  3. Search for Carlos Sánchez-Sánchez in:

  4. Search for Renaud Caillard in:

  5. Search for María F. López in:

  6. Search for Celia Rogero in:

  7. Search for F. Javier Palomares in:

  8. Search for Noemí Cabello in:

  9. Search for Miguel A. Basanta in:

  10. Search for José Ortega in:

  11. Search for Javier Méndez in:

  12. Search for Antonio M. Echavarren in:

  13. Search for Rubén Pérez in:

  14. Search for Berta Gómez-Lor in:

  15. Search for José A. Martín-Gago in:

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Berta Gómez-Lor or José A. Martín-Gago.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary information

    The file contains Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Figures S1-S7 with Legends and additional references.

About this article

Publication history





Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.