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Astronomers report the first possible detection of Graphene in Space

02/09/2011
First possible detection of Graphene in Space

A team of astronomers, using the Spitzer Space Telescope, have reported
the first extragalactic detection of the C70 fullerene molecule, and the
possible detection of planar C24 ("a piece of graphene") in space.

The team is led by Domingo Aníbal García-Hernández of the Instituto de
Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain includes a member of the Theoretical
Physics Department at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and
international astronomers and biochemists. The shocks associated to the
winds from old stars in planetary nebulae could be responsible for the
formation of fullerenes (C60 and C70) and graphene (planar C24).

Spitzer definitively detected both buckyballs and C70 in space for the
first time in July 2010 (see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-243).

It later  spotted buckyballs -- equivalent in mass to 15 full moons -- in the  Small Magellanic Cloud.

These latter results demonstrated that, contrary  to what was previously believed, fullerenes and other complex molecules could form in hydrogen-rich environments (see
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-351).

The detection  of graphenes and fullerenes around old stars as common as our Sun
suggests that these molecules and other allotropic forms of carbon may
be widespread in space.

These results are presented in a paper published in the Astrophysical
Journal Letters, Volume 737, Issue 2, article id. L30 (2011). The team
includes D. A. García-Hernández, S. Iglesias-Groth, J. A. Acosta-Pulido,
A. Manchado, P. García-Lario, L. Stanghellini, E. Villaver, R. A. Shaw
and F. Cataldo. Link to paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/737/2/L30


Read the NASA press release at
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/news/spitzer20110815.html
Read the news release from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in
Tucson at http://www.noao.edu/news/2011/pr1103.php .


  Credits: IAC; original image of the Helix Nebula (NASA, NOAO, ESA, the
Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner, STScI, & T.A. Rector, NRAO.)

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