Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have created a large hollow magnetic-cage molecule that could someday administer drugs directly inside the body.

Back in the 1980s, scientists discovered the C60 fullerene — more commonly known as the Buckminster Fullerene — a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms that forms a hollow cage. It's a structure that holds great promise as a potential drug delivery system.


Since that time, similar molecular cages have been discovered — but none of them are magnetic.

Why the interest in magnetic molecules? Because a hollow magnetic structure could be guided through the body by an external magnetic force.

And it now appears that such a thing might in fact be possible. A new study employing state-of-the-art theoretical models shows that magnetic hollow cages that carry giant magnetic moments are possible (a magnetic moment being a measure of the magnetic strength of a cluster).


It's called a Mn24C18 cluster and it carries a magnetic moment of 70 Bohr magnetons.

For comparison, the magnetic moment of an iron atom in crystalline iron is 2.2 Bohr magnetons.


The next step is for the researchers to found out how to synthesize large quantities of these structures and to study their magnetic properties once assembled.

Read the entire study at the Journal of Chemical Physics.

Top image: Menghao Wu, Ph.D./VCU.