Fullerene

 

fullerene is any moleculecomposed entirely ofcarbon, in the form of a hollow sphereellipsoid, ortube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs, and they resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical ones are calledcarbon nanotubes or buckytubes. Fullerenes are similar in structure tographite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings; but they may also contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings.[1]

The first fullerene to be discovered, and the family’s namesake,buckminsterfullerene (C60), was prepared in 1985 by Richard Smalley,Robert CurlJames HeathSean O’Brien, and Harold Kroto at Rice University. The name was an homage to Buckminster Fuller, whosegeodesic domes it resembles. The structure was also identified some five years earlier by Sumio Iijima, from an electron microscope image, where it formed the core of a “bucky onion.”[2] Fullerenes have since been found to occur in nature.[3] More recently, fullerenes have been detected in outer space.[4] According to astronomer Letizia Stanghellini, “It’s possible that buckyballs from outer space provided seeds for life on Earth.”[5]

The discovery of fullerenes greatly expanded the number of knowncarbon allotropes, which until recently were limited to graphite,diamond, and amorphous carbon such as soot and charcoal. Buckyballs and buckytubes have been the subject of intense research, both for their unique chemistry and for their technological applications, especially in materials scienceelectronics, and nanotechnology.

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