Bigger balls go with heavy metal

A Virginia-based startup called Luna nanoWorks will soon commercialize an outsized buckyball ([80]fullerene) that can trap a three-metal nitride cluster within. The material, first synthesized serendipitously by Harry Dorn at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, has some rather unusual electrical, optical and magnetic properties. Luna nanoWorks anticipates that the compound will be useful in novel devices such as high-efficiency solar cells as well as in medical scanning as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent. The large interior of this larger fullerene cage means it can hold three gadolinium ions at once and so could work in the next generation of high-power MRI where conventional agents are inadequate.