Platinum, gold, silver, and diamonds are going to seem dirt cheap when you hear how much this new man-made carbon-based material costs – an eye-watering £100 million ($150 million) per gram!
Created last year by British scientists in an Oxford University lab, ‘endohedral fullerene’ is a cage of carbon atoms containing nitrogen atoms. Carbon atoms exist in many forms like diamond and graphene, distinguished by the number of atoms they contain. This fullerene, with 60 carbon atoms, is also called Buckminsterfullerene or ‘bucky-ball’ because of its unusual shape.
It has several important applications apparently – it’s being used to create a small, portable atomic clock that will be the most accurate time-keeping system in the world. It could also help make GPS navigation more accurate to 1mm in self-driving cars.
“Imagine a miniaturised atomic clock that you could carry around in your smartphone,” said Dr. Kyriakos Porfyrakis, a nanomaterials scientist who has been working on the material since 2001. He is also the founder of Designer Carbon Materials, the lab that eventually produced the material. “This is the next revolution for mobile,” he added.
“At the moment, atomic clocks are room-sized,” added Lucius Cary, director of the Oxford Technology SEIS fund. “This endohedral fullerene would make it work on a chip that could go into your mobile phone. There will be lots of applications for this technology. The most obvious is in controlling autonomous vehicles. If two cars are coming towards each other on a country lane, knowing where they are to within 2m is not enough, but to 1mm is enough.”
“Every mobile phone could one day contain one of these things.”
The lab recently made its first sale – 200mcg of the bucky-ball that went for £22,000.