Monday, 24 July 2017

Fullerenes Discovered in Victorian England

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Note: this article would best be read in context, i.e. after having perused the letters and accounts of Ernest Glitch, Experimentalist, in the order they appear in The Chronicles

Fullerenes Discovered in Victorian England? A letter from Ernest Glitch (son of Mad Judge Glitch) to Michael Faraday appears to note the crystallisation of C60 some 150 years before Kroto

Eighth day of July, 1856. Glitch Manor, Weardale

My Dear Faraday,

In response to your very welcome enquiry about that gas of lucifer, fluorine, an account of last years isolation exists only in a letter I sent to Georgie Gore. As you know Faraday, I do not make notes, and my memory of the exact experimental minutiae from the isolation has been somewhat degraded since Christmas (through the unwise ingestion of the ethereally extracted chemicals present within fifteen gross of liberty-cap mushrooms). I suggest you contact Gore, but in essence the apparatus was laboriously carved from a single, perfect, crystal of weardale fluorspar. It was a pressure fracture in the spar which enabled the escape of the canary yellow gas towards Hodges' britches.

Your concern about Hodges' health and employment exasperates me Faraday! However, in accordance with your wishes, I have reinstated him. I may say Faraday, that finding Hodges afforded me no end of trouble, and not inconsiderable expense. The wretch had travelled to Newcastle town moor, and was attempting to eke out an existence with a carnival show. Hodges' earning potential had recently plummeted, like a stooping peregrine, after an unfortunate incident involving the mayors wife. The carnival owner forbade him to further display his fluorine scars, and his electrical scarification is hardly of the shocking nature lucifers gas, the tiger of chemistry, had afforded him. He is still maintaining blindness in one eye, and I have had to reduce his previous workload because of frailness.

As usual Faraday, my experimental endeavours have tangentially deviated. I have been working on the products of incomplete combustion. This will be of great interest to you, and I hope you have time to include my observations in time for your Christmas lecture on the chemistry of the candle flame. My son Rupert is greatly excited at the prospect of travelling to London, and the Royal Institution Lecture should drum some sense into him. He and Hodges' bastard son are of the same age, and are engaged in "experiments" at my trout stream, using a leyden jar to render insensible the aquatic creatures!

Although I have great respect for your work Faraday, I believe you may have overlooked a rather remarkable combustion product. I had been clearing some of my fathers early experimental apparatus (scientific equipment he used before his interest in rope engines became his passion). I came across the lamps and woven wire he had been experimenting with many years ago. As you know, he was in communication with your old mentor, Mr. Davy, and I suspect the apparatus concerned the propagation of flame across wire mesh into methane rich air. I had Hodges clean the filthy apparatus with benzene. He immediately started complaining about the fumes and the effect the liquid was having on his hands. The dolt! I explained to him that it was triple distilled, as pure as I could procure! ( I hope you approve of my pure use of this remarkable liquid Faraday, first manufactured by your esteemed self ). Hodges was about to throw out the now carbon black liquid, when I remarked that the cost of the benzene was more than Hodges earned in a week. At that point I retired to the billiards room.

Upon returning to the workshop I discovered that Hodges had filtered the liquid, in a feeble attempt to curry favour. He was perplexed however, since although all carbon black had been removed, the liquid was of a beautiful straw yellow colour.

Unable to account for this, and as my dear father (similarly to yours truly) kept no log, I constructed a new acetylene flame apparatus, specifically to see what combustion products could be generated at various levels of oxygen starvation.The gas acetylene (a name I suggested to Berthelot in a recent communication) I prepare using my galvanic battery`s power to combine cumberland graphite electrodes in a hydrogen gas medium. I utilised the electrical output from my influence machine to effect precipitation of the soot produced upon conflagration of the gas..

 The Gitch Apparatus for the Electrostatic Precipitation of Fullerenes

Success! I once again procured the lovely solution. Upon crystallisation, the substance appears dark and un-remarkable, but magnified, superb orange hexagonal platelets can be seen. A sketch is enclosed.

C60 crystals

In an attempt to determine the nature of the substance, yesterday I enclosed an amount in a sealed bell jar full of oxygen. Using the rays of the sun concentrated, with the aid of a large burning lens, upon the platina crucible, deflagration ensued.

The resultant gas I then passed through lime water, and the precipitate weighed. The amount of carbonic acid gas produced upon deflagration would indicate that the substance is almost pure carbon! I hope you have time to look into this Faraday, since my interest is waning and I am about to embark on the possibility of using living animal flesh to produce sound from electricity. More of this in a later communication, but essentially I have noted sound being produced from within Hodges' musculature when subjected to a rapid series of electrical shocks. [see flesh transducer]

The volcano in the south pasture has now become dormant, hopefully extinct. Since it`s cinder cone and ejecta are almost entirely made of the sulphide of iron, Rupert decided, as only a precocious ten year old can, that a large scale stink bomb was possible. I would have discovered the removal of my entire stocks of fuming muriatic acid and oil of vitriol in due course, Faraday, but I knew what was afoot at the first hint of foulness! Well, perhaps initially I suspected Leopold, my wolfhound, but the stench was strong and I could hear the servants complaining. Rupert was delighted with the results of his jolly jape, particularly as a skein of geese flew into the toxic cloud, and expired in their entirety. One is apt to forget the lethal toxicity of sulphuretted hydrogen Faraday! Thank goodness the wind took the majority of the gas down dale, away from the mansion, or we might have joined the birds! Rupert had Hodges' son distribute the geese amongst the local Weardale peasants and lead miners, in a measure to compensate for the distress and grave illnesses caused. The boy will go far.

Again Faraday, I urge you to look further into the possible combustion products of a candle flame, as the new substance is of form and nature, quite different from lamp-black, cumberland graphite or diamond, whilst having the same composition.

Yours most sincerely,

Ernest Glitch.

P.S. Faraday, I nearly forgot to add this information. You asked for my advice concerning extreme temperatures. You do not state the purpose, but I have yet to find a substance that can withstand the flame of my galvanic hydrogen torch. I developed this tool last year to melt osmiridium for Gore. Simply pass a jet of hydrogen gas through the continuous spark drawn from two wolfram electrodes. I used my medium galvanic battery to power the device.

Be careful however, I well remember an occasion last December. Hodges' mobility was impaired because of the sack-cloth bandages surrounding his groin; he had already melted three of the osmiridium nuggets I'd obtained from the Urals when the accident occurred. An explosion. I can tell you Faraday I moved fast! But not poor Hodges. Five ounces of white hot molten precious metal flying through the air is a sight to behold, quite terrifying - but beautiful, like a meteor storm of molten globules. The white hot shower cascaded onto Hodges' body. The globules bounced off him, disintegrating into a firework display of sparks. He disappeared in a cloud of steam. Honestly Faraday, I thought I'd have another corpse on my hands.

Amazingly, just as I was starting to plan further electrical necro-anatomical experiments, Hodges emerged from the cloud, and waddled towards me, dumbstruck. He had been tending the galvanic hydrogen torch stripped down to his rough loincloth of bandages, because of the extreme heat. His sweat saved him Faraday! As I experimentally verified later, much to Hodges alarm, molten metal shows a remarkable propensity to bounce from wet human skin, as though a small steam explosion occures on contact. From the accident, Hodges was virtually intact. Only where the molten osmiridium had penetrated his sack-cloth bandaging to the groin, and had seared, still white hot, into his fresh scar tissue, was Hodges complaining of any slight discomfort. Or extreme pain.

I left him to clear up the debris and recover every grain of the precious metal, while I pondered the cause of the explosion. I think the problem is a secondary "ordinary" hydrogen flame, quite apart from the galvanic hydrogen flame (which delivers the refractory temperatures). This secondary flame is near invisible, and extends a distance from the flame proper. Hodges, unaware of its existence and in his typical slipshod manner, had burned through a gutta-percha tube, so releasing hydrogen gas, so leading to his brush with an expensive death.

Copyright © 2002 Roger Curry
All Rights Reserved

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"Hodges emitted a scream the like of which
I hadn't heard since his scrotum was burned off
during my experiment with fluorine gas last year."

The Exotic Experimentation of Ernest Glitch,
Victorian Science with a Smile

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Unrelated to this post, below is an example of
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A large Oudin coil

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