Look What Got Caught In This Spiderweb

Call it the case of the serendipitous cobwebs. At IBM's Almaden Research Center, Donald S. Bethune was trying to make tiny magnetic particles encased in protective carbon shells. Such particles might lead to smaller magnetic computer storage devices. When Bethune vaporized cobalt-containing carbon electrodes, he got a big surprise. Normally, the material condenses as a crumbly-looking soot. But the experiment's chamber was filled with cobweblike strands hanging from the walls. "No one had seen anything like it before," Bethune recalls. "We said, 'What in the world's going on?'"

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.