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Molecular depth profiling modeled using buckyballs and low-energy argon
Date:10/11/2011

A team of scientists led by a Penn State University chemist has demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of an alternative method of molecular depth profiling -- a technique used to analyze the surface of ultra-thin materials such as human tissue, nanoparticles, and other substances. In the new study, the researchers used computer simulations and modeling to show the effectiveness and limitations of the alternative method, which is being used by a research group in Taiwan. The new computer-simulation findings may help future researchers to choose when to use the new method of analyzing how and where particular molecules are distributed throughout the surface layers of ultra-thin materials. The research will be published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Team leader Barbara Garrison, the Shapiro Professor of Chemistry and the head of the Department of Chemistry at Penn State University, explained that bombarding a material with buckyballs -- hollow molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms that are formed into a spherical shape resembling a soccer ball is an effective means of molecular depth profiling. The name, "buckyball," is an homage to an early twentieth-century American engineer, Buckminster Fuller, whose design of a geodesic dome very closely resembles the soccer-ball-shaped 60-carbon molecule. "Researchers figured out a few years ago that buckyballs could be used to profile molecular-scale depths very effectively," Garrison explained. "Buckyballs are much bigger and chunkier than the spacing between the molecules at the surface of the material being studied, so when the buckyballs hit the surface, they tend to break it up in a way that allows us to peer inside the solid and to actually see which molecules are arranged where. We can see, for example, that one layer is composed of one kind of molecule and the next layer is composed of another kind of molecule, similar to the way a meteor creates a crater that exposes sub-surface
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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