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Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 19:10 GMT


France win the nano-World Cup

Spot the difference: the two World Cups

After winning the World Cup in 1998, France's soccer team has been given a second trophy - but this one is 10 million times smaller.

Andreas Hirsch explains why he created the nano-world cup
The molecular trophy was magnanimously awarded to France by the German and Italian chemists who created it.

Professor Andreas Hirsch, at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, told BBC News Online: "It was a fun project, but the compound could have some nice properties."

He is now working with photophysicists to see whether the molecule could benefit solar panels or artificial photosynthesis.

The molecular replica is three nanometres high, compared to the real trophy's 36 cm height. It is made from two molecules which the researchers were studying and realised could be put together to mimic soccer's top prize.

A football-shaped molecule called a buckminsterfullerene (or C60) forms the top of the tiny trophy with a bowl-shaped molecule called a calixarene supporting it.

Light to electricity

Professor Hirsch says that if light shines on the buckminsterfullerene, an electron would jump into the calixarene. If that electron can be caught and fed into an electrical circuit, the nano-world cup could convert light into electricity.

Professor Hirsch wished he could have awarded his cup to the German soccer team: "We were kind of disappointed but on the other hand the German team didn't do very well throughout the championship.

"My co-worker is Italian and they didn't do it either, but that's sport."

The work was reported in New Scientist.

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