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Buckyballs Polymerized Into Buckywires

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the buck-for-your-thoughts dept.

Science 71

KentuckyFC writes "Scientists have found a way to join buckyballs together so that they form buckywires. The wires form when buckyballs are dissolved in an aromatic hydrocarbon called 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene. The solvent links the balls together to make wires shaped like a string of pearls, which then precipitate out. This relatively simple procedure opens the door to industrial-scale manufacture. Buckywires ought to be efficient light harvesters because of their great surface area and the way they can conduct photon-liberated electrons. But perhaps the area of greatest interest is drug delivery. The researchers suggest that buckywires ought to be safer than carbon nanotubes because the production method is entirely metal-free. This contrasts with the production of nanotubes, which are formed in a reaction catalyzed by metallic nanoparticles."

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balls, my ass (2, Informative)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351331)

The wires form when buckyballs are dissolved in an aromatic hydrocarbon called 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene.

Aromatic hydrocarbon, my ass. Those damn kids have been into my Scotch again.

Hey slashdot can you help me? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351427)

I really like FUBU gear but I recently moved to Oregon and it's almost impossible to find any of it here. Can any fellow Oregonian slashdotters help a brotha out?

Re:Hey slashdot can you help me? (0, Offtopic)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351601)

You should go ask on 4chan, I'm sure they'll be happy to help you out.

Re:balls, my ass (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351845)

AHHHH, you said "a$$" and d@mn! Bad word!!!! Bad word!!!! Bad word!!!! Where's the word filter here?!? I though this was supposed to be a family-friendly site?!?!? You should be ashamed, mother fucker

Effect on computing (2, Interesting)

abshack (1389985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351437)

How does this effect computing, I wonder. I've heard that buckyballs have some interesting electrical properties (in passing conversation so I can't recall what they are). Could someone elaborate on how "buckystrings" could be used for electrical applications?

Re:Effect on computing (1)

abshack (1389985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351523)

No editing? :(... I used "effect" when I meant affect. Damn.

Re:Effect on computing (2, Insightful)

greyline (1052440) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352391)

Welcome to Slashdot, you must be new here!

Re:Effect on computing (1)

The Mysterious Dr. X (1502541) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351895)

According to the article, it should make decent wiring for molecular circuit boards.

Re:Effect on computing (0, Redundant)

Conditioner (1405031) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353107)

How does this affect computing, I wonder. I've heard that buckyballs have some interesting electrical properties (in passing conversation so I can't recall what they are). Could someone elaborate on how "buckystrings" could be used for electrical applications?

there, fixed that for ya!

Re:Effect on computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28353373)

I try to keep my buckyballs as far away from electricity as possible.

Great (3, Funny)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351487)

So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

Re:Great (3, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351561)

So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

It'll still tangle into a bucky-knot the moment it leaves your eyesight.

Re:Great (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28360089)

It'll still tangle into a bucky-knot the moment it leaves your eyesight.

And with diamond hard strength I'd wager I can cut it with a scissors....

Re:Great (2, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351871)

So can I get some cheap fishing line that doesn't break now?

Yes. Yes you can.

2 cm diameter nylon rope will rarely break under normal fishing use.

What... you wanted to be able to *catch* something with it?

Re:Great (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351957)

Who says you can't catch anything with it? A shark? A small whale? Your mom maybe? Including some diseases... :P

Re:Great (1)

Burpmaster (598437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28355253)

But those frickin' sharks can easily cut through 2cm rope with their frickin' laser beams...

Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (5, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351511)

"Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace"

Who would have guessed?

Re:Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351649)

"That's not jewlery she's talkin bout. It really don't cost that much."

Re:Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351977)

"That's not jewlery she's talkin bout. It really don't cost that much."

Unless you are married. Then you pay.

And pay...

and pay...

Re:Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351713)

Ha-Ha! You win one free Internet!

Re:Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28352637)

Did you say, Pearl Balls?

Re:Bucky Balls create Pearl Necklace (2, Funny)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352915)

Was ZZ Top involved in this research?

In a strand so thin, it chopps heads off. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28353951)

That would make one hell of a garrote

like a string of pearls (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351539)

Great, a new sex toy.

And my captcha is "connects"

Applications? (3, Interesting)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351541)

If threads are created and those threads are woven into a fabric, then what kind of ballistic applications could we expect? Could panels be made from strands of buckysballs and into new car skins? Aircraft?

Re:Applications? (1)

TinFoilMan (1371973) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351597)

Holy Shit, I just spit out my soda.

I don't think buckys balls are strong enough to skin anything!

However buckyballs may be the next best thing if it can be made inexpensively.

Re:Applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351849)

Oh, I don't know. You could make a change purse out of bucky's balls. Of course, if bucky is still alive, you might get some resistance to have his balls cut off and skinned.

Re:Applications? (2, Informative)

The Mysterious Dr. X (1502541) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351677)

Probably depends on the tensile properties. From what I gather, nanotubes and buckywires could have different characteristics there, since they don't really share the same structure. Without knowing any details, I wonder if the difference would make them more elastic... That would have a mix of effects on ballistics, I suppose.

Re:Applications? (5, Informative)

Saysys (976276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351841)

From: (PDF warning) http://www.davis-floyd.com/USERIMAGES/File/Bucky%20balls%20Fullereness%20and%20the%20future.pdf [davis-floyd.com]

being the strong, macroscopic person that you are, you get a hold of this, and you stretch it and stretch it and stretch it, and before it breaks you can stretch it to 20 or 30 percent longer than it was to begin with. The tensile strength is very high.

The indication is that when it finally does break, it doesn't break brittly but pulls out a little chain of carbon atoms the break is a plastic failure, not a brittle failure. One thing that we do know from actual tubes that have been made and distorted, is that you can take this tube and you can bend it. You can bend it so much that it buckles like a soda straw and then when you let go, it just snaps right back it does not break.

So, any tube, like the soda straw, as you begin to bend it, the material of the soda straw at the top of the bend has to stretch and underneath, on the inside of the bend, so that the bending stiffness of it depends on just how hard it is to stretch that material and this is the hardest material in the universe to stretch, so the stiffness of this little nanotube will be higher than any other object you can build out of the tinker toy set, forever and anon.

Re:Applications? (2)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28357933)

So nanotubes still win in the area of tensile strength, i.e. space elevator construction?

Re:Applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351997)

That's what I love about /., you can have a faux pas and while still getting the message across you create wonderful laughter.

Re:Applications? (4, Interesting)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352343)

Clothlike photovolatics. You'd be quite literally wearing a patch of solar cells on your jacket, powering your appliances. Self-charging power cells, when it runs low, it'll tell you through audibles or a simple electroluminescent indicator. Just set it outside and it'll happily charge itself.

New processes for PV's to be built. Self-charging billboards using LED's or other low voltage lighting, eliminating high powered spots that pollute the night sky. I don't know how they would stand up to the rigors of space travel, but I'll bet they'll come up with something, perhaps laminating BB PV's in Lexan or a similiar transparent material.

Maybe a paint using them, making once again, self powered equipment, or hybrid wind generators that keep generating power even when the wind is calm!

How are they at being a wearing face? New generations of bearing materials that have an even lower friction coefficient than the current materials.

Also, new formulations for fuel using polymer chains of BB's maybe in order, making it an excellent replacement for sulfur as a lubricating additive.

Re:Applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28352551)

Bucky balls can be used in automotive applications to create a more durable pair of TruckBalls for your Ford F-150. Other tentative applications are weather-resistant 'Calvin Pissing' and 'No Fear' stickers

Re:Applications? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352873)

It is not possible to create fabrics woven from single molecule fibers, at least for now. And I would first expect such sort of thing done on more common polymers with more practical applications. But a "nano-fabric" could be interesting.

Re:Applications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28353243)

I was thinking Space Elevators when I first saw the title.

Wires are no good for your balls (-1, Offtopic)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351587)

I'd suggest you keep those wires away from your balls. That includes long hair from girlfriends and wives which have a terrible habbit of wrapping around your nuts when you least expect it. It's a very delicate operation to remove it - maybe not quite as hard as polymerising buckyballs but a hell of a lot more important to me personally.

Re:Wires are no good for your balls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351725)

I'd suggest you keep those wires away from your balls. That includes long hair from girlfriends and wives which have a terrible habbit of wrapping around your nuts when you least expect it. It's a very delicate operation to remove it - maybe not quite as hard as polymerising buckyballs but a hell of a lot more important to me personally.

If your girlfriend and your wife are getting their hair dangerously close to your balls at the same time, I would call that a very very good thing, that or a very very bad thing.

Re:Wires are no good for your balls (-1, Offtopic)

amoeba1911 (978485) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351865)

If the fur pie is that bad perhaps you should tell them to get a Brazilian.

Time to start hording buckyballs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28351693)

http://www.thinkgeek.com/geektoys/science/bbe8/

metal free...? (2, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351719)

Metal free production is nice, but in the end, it's not just what is used in production, but how you take out the undesirable things.

Benzene and many derivatives, are just as toxic (if not more so) than a lot of metals.

Re:metal free...? (2, Interesting)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351999)

You mean apart from the nano-scale bucky balls and particles of them themselves?

I don't think anyone has (or could) ever really test(ed) the effects of that stuff on your body and genetics.
In the end, we will do what we always do. We will try it out on the people. And if it fails, someone will continue... Monsanto style.

Re:metal free...? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353089)

To your body, the fullerenes aren't very different from graphite (read: not toxic, unless you breathe the dust all day long, then you can have mild respiratory problems).They can't even dissolve in your blood in a detectable amount.

Re:metal free...? (1)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352669)

You argument is actually in favor of metal-free synthesis. Even if the solvent was toxic, you can just evaporate it, which is trivial. However, it is not. A small structural change can lead to a drastic change in toxicity: benzene is highly toxic and carcinogenic, toluene (methylbenzene) is not carcinogenic and only slightly toxic. I expect their solvent to be relatively non-toxic.

On the other hand, metal contamination is an a very big problem, especially in drug synthesis. You can't easily get rid of trace amounts of metal. The only good approach is to avoid it, by using stable catalysts that can be separated with very high efficiency.

Re:metal free...? (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352695)

Benzene boiling point 80 degrees C at STP

Iron boiling point 2860 degrees C at STP

It would seem much easier to vacuum distill benzene out of the buckywire product than iron, because of the difference in boiling points. If 80 degrees C is still too hot for buckywires, then vacuum distillation will work at a lower temperature. So the technology to separate the good from the bad is much easier with the benzene process so it'll probably be done better.

Benzene traps are simple cheap and easy to use (well, relatively anyway), whereas nanoparticle "traps" are basically expensive filters that may or may not work and or be maintained, so just blowing filtered N2 thru the product and cleaning the contaminated N2 stream would probably work pretty well. Recycling benzene is simple, but I think all you can do with nanoparticles is bury them or maybe dissolve the whole filter in a super strong acid. So, trapping / recycling bad stuff using the benzene process is much simpler and easier to do, so it'll probably be done better.

Finally monitoring benzene levels (to verify your containment is working, detect when it fails) is pretty trivial, but monitoring nanoparticle contamination levels is pretty much a mystery or at least not standardized. And when you have a spill, the fire department and EPA know exactly what to do with spilled benzene but would be mystified by nanoparticles. So, when the bad stuff inevitably gets released into the environment, "we" know exactly how to handle the benzene process, but not the nanoparticle process.

Making eco-judgements about a chemistry topic, when all you can base it on is sloganeering like benzene is bad, is not going to result in useful judgments.

Benzene and many derivatives, are just as toxic (if not more so) than a lot of metals.

That's about as vague of a "statement" as can be made, but if you really believe it is true, we can set up a little wager and I'll wash my hands in a bucket of pure benzene if you'll agree to wash your hands or any other appendage with a mercury organometallic and we'll see who ends up healthier. Or if you don't like mercury organometallics, I'll let you chose any soluble lead compound. Or, how about a tasty ionic Uranium compound?

Re:metal free...? (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353935)

It would seem much easier to vacuum distill benzene out of the buckywire product than iron

Except that the Benzene is holding the buckballs together - it's part of the wire. The iron is not part of the end product, just the process. TFA has a nice picture showing 2 balls held together by a nice benzene ring with a few other atoms.

Re:metal free...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28383233)

Or, how about a tasty ionic Uranium compound?

The "tastiness" of Uranium should be known since it has been used in dental porcelain for decades (no longer of course): http://www.orau.org/PTP/collection/consumer%20products/dentures.htm

So, Johnny... (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351903)

...have you ever heard of Buckeywires?

Re:So, Johnny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28353801)

Having my thumb replaced tomorrow.
But I'm definitely NOT getting on any trampolines with any chicks.

Again with the journalist hype... (4, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#28351941)

This relatively simple procedure opens the door to industrial-scale manufacture

No, it doesn't. There's no specificity, you can't control the polymerization to the extent needed to build something useful at the nanoscale, the wires are precipitating out of solution because they're attracted to themselves and each other more strongly than they're attracted to the solvent, that's a problem because you have no way of actually building anything with them. That's why people have been doing this sort of things with metal colloids for over a decade and there's been no "industrial-scale" use for them discovered in anything but colloidal form because you're basically just creating fancy-shaped aggregates. Until there's a technology available that will selectively aggregate nanoscale materials into arbitrary shapes (rather than a bunch of copies of the same repeating structure in solution) in a manner where certain shapes and functional units can be fixed to where they need to be on a chip or in a machine there isn't going to be a use.

Interesting chemistry, but to imagine that nanotech has any applications that require more synthetic control than bulk colloids or coatings within the next decade (or 5) is pure hype.

I think you are jumping beyond the article (2, Insightful)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352505)

I believe the item you quoted refers to industrial-scale manufacture of the buckywires themselves.

While a number of possible applications are mentioned, none are anything more than speculation and neither of the two named (photovoltaics and drug-delivery) require the specificity you mention.

One only needs to be able to "selectively aggregate nanoscale materials into arbitrary shapes" if one is making a complex nano-scale object. That is not what is mentioned in this article nor is it even implied.

Re:Again with the journalist hype... (1)

Rudisaurus (675580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352567)

Well, a polymer is nothing more than an aggregate of repeating units ... much like a Buckywire, in fact. And polymer chains can be tailored to be of specific (average) length, to have a certain average side-chain frequency and length, to have a given frequency of cross-linking, etc. So there's no reason why the kinetics of the wire-building reaction (for a reaction it is, whether chemical or physical), once they're understood, can't be utilized to customize the end-product. We do that all the time.

I have a post-graduate degree in chemical engineering. I have worked in polymerization reaction engineering.

Doesn't this stuff have to be high quality? (2, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352087)

IIRC, chains of carbon nanotubes, graphene, buckyballs, and co. are prone to nasty weaknesses do to easily induced flaws in structures. So even if we could make a lot of this stuff, would it even be useful with these methods?

hate the smell of buckyball wires in the morning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28352147)

smells like gasoline :)

Bucky whatchamacallit (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352379)

Buckyball's been around a while now, predates slashdot's existence, with whole buncha stories stories posted on slashdot over the years, but I can't recall a single substantial application. What are they?

Re:Bucky whatchamacallit (3, Informative)

Tweenk (1274968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352791)

Maybe because "buckyballs" is a "pop sci" term and you look funny using it. They are more often called fullerenes.
Example of use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhondite [wikipedia.org]

Fullerenes have little current practical use (they are rather expensive) but a lot of interesting potential uses, because you can trap things inside them: a lot of exotic materials can be made with them. There is even a purely organic compund (a mixed crystal of fullerene and a small organic compound) which exhibits ferromagnetic properties.

Re:Bucky whatchamacallit (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353007)

"Fullerenes have little current practical use (they are rather expensive) but a lot of interesting potential uses."

So more/less same as decades ago, hence my question.

Re:Bucky whatchamacallit (1)

smaddox (928261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352939)

They are used in every high efficiency organic solar cell.

Then again, organic solar cells are still only in the lab, so you probably don't care.

Re:Bucky whatchamacallit (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353041)

"What are they?"

I mean applications, not buckyball.

Re:Bucky whatchamacallit (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353579)

I can't recall a single substantial application. What are they?

So far, most applications involve applications for grant money.

Kim Allen's fullerene page is a pretty good reference in general.

This sub page:

http://kimallen.sheepdogdesign.net/Fuller/apps.html [sheepdogdesign.net]

summarizes the current situation. Pretty much, nothing but a lot of wouldn't it be cool. Its the chemistry version of astronomy students pondering how cool it would be to have a warp drive, or poli-sci students dreaming of true communism.

It is a geometrical-numerological approach to chemistry, encouraged by occasional past success. "If it looks cool to a human being, it must be chemically useful".

Benzene is attractively symmetric and cool looking and is also pretty vital. On a really large scale DNA is pretty cool looking and does come in handy, mostly because its self replicating (with a little help). Little lego building blocks of NaCl are pretty and industrially important. A pretty matrix of silicon is very handy. Similarily, a pretty handful of silicone is way off the chemistry topic here but also enjoyable (is this like the worst slashdot joke ever?)

On the other hand, there are plenty of examples, such as anthracene, with structures that look really super duper cool, but are more or less useless. Add fullerenes to that list of cool looking, mostly useless structures.

Stop. (1)

Wicked Zen (1006745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352677)

You had me at "drug delivery."

Why Bucky-wires and not Bucky-snot? (1)

dbc (135354) | more than 5 years ago | (#28352731)

The article is kinda light on details. So, to you chemists out there, what controls where and how many times the trimethylbenzene bonds to the Buckyball? Why doesn't it form all sorts of bonds all over the ball and cause a giant, crystalized glop of randomly bonded Bucky-snot to precipitate out?

Re:Why Bucky-wires and not Bucky-snot? (3, Informative)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28355019)

The bonding is controlled by both the thermodynamics of the multi-bonded fullerenes, as well as the kinetics involved in multiple crosslinkings, forcing fullerenes next to each other. If you read the actual article, the evidence suggests that the fullerenes are slowly polymerizing, and crosslinking - an NMR spectrum after several months implies that it actually is one, big, horrible mess (or not fullerenes anymore, depending on how skeptical you are of this).

Re:Why Bucky-wires and not Bucky-snot? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28357415)

If you read the actual article, the evidence suggests that the fullerenes are slowly polymerizing, and crosslinking - an NMR spectrum after several months implies that it actually is one, big, horrible mess (or not fullerenes anymore, depending on how skeptical you are of this).

Yeah that bugged me too. It's pretty common knowledge in the fullerene chemistry community that if you leave a fullerene sample in a solvent for long enough, it will break down/polymerize/what-have-you. The article is pretty heavily padded, if you ask me. They essentially pulled a year-old sample out of the drawer, couldn't get it to dissolve, and did some work to indicate that the stuff had polymerized. That in and of itself is pretty interesting, but 'metal-free?' Gimme a break. Most industrial scale-ups aren't looking for a synthesis that takes 11.5 months, and if you want it to go any faster, you're probably looking at introducing a catalyst at some point. So much for metal-free. Also, just a pet peeve of mine, but I really hate when chemists pad their articles with a whole bunch of theory when all they really did was stick their input file into Gaussian and wait around for an answer to pop out.

Not Science, not anything (0, Flamebait)

Super Happy Fun Chem (862025) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353621)

The article is so bad as to not even be publishable. They see less 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene in aged samples? Guess what, trimethylbenzene evaporates slowly. Less soluble? Ever heard of decomposition? There's a reason this isn't in Science or JACS, and that's because its complete and utter fantasy.

Re:Not Science, not anything (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28355095)

I want to know why there is no proton NMR data - with the author claiming disubstitution of the fullerenes, at least initially, there should be a very clear shift in the proton spectrum of the methylene carbons.

NOT related to nanotubes (4, Informative)

Wdi (142463) | more than 5 years ago | (#28353847)

According to the image in the article, the individual buckyballs are linked by SP3 carbons (@-CH2-Phi-CH2-@) from the solvent. This means, there is no pi electron system, and therefore no electrical connectivity, between the buckyball entities. The physical characteristics of this material are vastly different from nanotubes, which are a single extended pi system. I highly doubt that this stuff can be a replacement for any application which requires long-distance electron flow, such as light harvesting, microelectronics, etc.

Re:NOT related to nanotubes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28361355)

These are related to nanotubes on a strength comparison.

There are many uses for strong wires/fabrics that do not need (or want) conductivity.

Re:NOT related to nanotubes (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#28362539)

Benzene is conductive because it has "floating" double bonds in its six-carbon ring. This may leave enough electrons free to conduct between buckyballs.

Mal-2

Meanwhile, in related news ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#28355269)

... Elmer Snodgrass of Mayberry, Kansas has been collecting Buckywires for the past 35 years, wrapping them up to create the worlds largest Buckyball.
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