In DepthChemistry

A new form of pure carbon dazzles and attracts

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Science  15 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6467, pp. 782-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.366.6467.782

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A "happy accident" has yielded a new, stable form of pure carbon made from cheap feedstocks, researchers say. Like diamond and graphene, two other guises of carbon, the material seems to have extraordinary physical properties. It is harder than stainless steel, about as conductive, and as reflective as a polished aluminum mirror. Perhaps most surprising, the substance appears to be ferromagnetic, behaving like a permanent magnet at temperatures up to 125°C. The discovery, announced in a talk here at the International Symposium on Clusters and Nanomaterials, could lead to lightweight coatings, medical products, and novel electronic devices. The news has elicited both excitement and caution among the dozens of researchers attending the meeting. Experts note that carbon is much lighter than other ferromagnetic elements such as manganese, nickel, and iron. Moreover, carbon is nontoxic in the body—which could mean the substance could be used for making biosensors or drug-delivery carriers.

  • * W. Wayt Gibbs is a journalist in Seattle, Washington, and editorial director at Intellectual Ventures.

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