Carbon buckyballs can turn to jelly: The simulation heated the balls, which have been an object of fascination since their discovery in 1995, to over 2000 °C and then cooled them in less than a billionth of a second. This caused a loosely connected solid network to emerge that behaved like a wobbly gel.
Conventional gels consist of small liquid molecules trapped in a network of larger solid molecules. This is the first example of a gel made of just a solid network. "Liquid is not a prerequisite for a gel," concludes Royall – the network is the crucial component.