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What Is The Most Expensive Material In The World?


Endohedral fullerenes could help to produce the most accurate atomic clocks ever, and are the most expensive material ever produced. AVN Photo Lab/Shutterstock

If you are asked to name some expensive materials, you would mention of diamond, gold and plutonium. However it is not the case now, for scientists at Oxford University have created a material which is more expensive than all of the finest substances you could afford to purchase. At a auction recently held, 200 micrograms of the material were sold at the price of £22,000 ($33,000). That was nearly $4.2 billion per ounce.

Such material is made of molecular units known as endohedral fullerenes. These are spheres of carbon atoms, inside which are harbored other molecules. Although researchers have already created several variations of endohedral fullerenes in the past, this specific types manufactured by the scientists at Oxford University regarded to have particular value in building  atomic clocks and GPS devices. In a more specific sense, these include N@C60 and N@C70, which consist of a nitrogen atom caged within a carbon sphere made up of 60 and 70 atoms respectively.

Traditionally, atomic clocks have been produced with application of caesium atoms, which have 55 electrons aligned in several orbits around the nucleus of the atom. When  electrons switch between different orbits, they send off radio waves with a very specific and stable frequency. As this frequency always remains exactly same each time the electrons switch between different orbits, it will offer a reliable and constant benchmark for measurement of time. In this way, it will be more accurate than the rotation of the Earth or the swing of a pendulum, because in both ways, it could be slightly various.

It is believed by the Oxford-based team that these endohedral fullerenes could be applied to manufacturing an even more reliable atomic clock. The team also claims that it could be helpful in development of GPS devices with accuracy of one millimeter when tracking locations. This could be an important breakthrough for the automobile industry, because such materials would enable the production of self-driving cars which are able to monitor their own movement with amazing precision.

In the interview with the Telegraph, Dr. Kyriakos Porfyrakis,  founder of the company Designer Carbon Materials of Oxford University, which produced the structures, said the materials they created could be used to manufacture a miniaturized atomic clock that could be easily carried around in a  smart-phone. Therefore, it would indicate a major improvement on versions of the atomic clock currently being used, which is almost as big as a small room.

Though endohedral fullerenes might be regarded as the most expensive material for the time being, Forbes has estimated that antimatter would be more expensive, since it could cost up to $2,800 trillion per ounce.The antimatter could be used to fuel spaceships one day in the future.