2010, Nanospace Odyssey
Sir Harry Kroto
Chemistry and Physics at one borderline and Chemistry and Biology at the other begin to become indistinguishable, multidisciplinary research is leading to the fascinating new field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N not to be confused with M&M). Ingenious strategies for the creation of molecules with complex exactly-specified structures with function are being developed, basically molecules that do things. In fact N&N may be considered "Frontier Chemistry of the 21st Century". When the molecule C60, and its elongated cousins, the carbon nanotubes, were discovered it suddenly became clear that our understanding of the structural factors and the dynamic behaviour of graphite and other sheet materials was limited, especially at the nanometer scale. In the Sussex N&N Centre ( www.nano.sussex.ac.uk) new experimental vapour and condensed phase approaches, often involving metal cluster catalysis, have led to the production of novel refractory nanostructures. Studies of composites involving these new materials are beginning to exhibit interesting advanced materials behaviour. Fascinating fundamental insights into their formation mechanisms have also been revealed. Possible applications range from civil engineering to electronics promising to transform our economics but if this is to be realised a paradigm shift in synthetic control strategies will be necessary to create really large molecules with accurately defined structures at the atomic level. This presents one of the greatest technical challenges for 21st Century Chemists. From a fundamental research strategy viewpoint it is worth noting the fact that the original C60 discovery experiments were carried out as a consequence of earlier molecular spectroscopy/radioastronomy discoveries relating to material in interstellar space and red giant carbon stars, together with the development major advances in our techniques for studying small refractory clusters.