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Buckyball (Molecule of the Month for December 2005)

C60, Bucky Ball, Buckminsterfullerene

Buckyball is a member of a class of carbon structures called fullerenes. Fullerenes are an allotrope (solid structure) of the element carbon - the best known being diamond and graphite. Fullerenes can be hollow spheres like buckyball, ellipsoid, or tubes (buckytubes). Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of a sheet of linked hexagonal rings, but they contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings that prevent the sheet from being planar.

The structure of C60 - buckminsterfullerene - is that of a truncated icosahedron, which resembles a round soccer ball of the type made of hexagons and pentagons, with a carbon atom at the corners of each hexagon and a bond along each edge. The molecule was named for Richard Buckminster Fuller, a noted architect who popularized the geodesic dome.

In 1985, Professor Harry Kroto (UK) whilst working on the possible structures of interstellar carbon molecules approached Professors Curl and Smallery (US) to use their laser beam equipment so do lab simulations of carbon chain formation in star systems. The experiment carried out in September 1985 not only proved that carbon stars could produce the chains but revealed an amazing, serendipitous result - the totally unexpected existence of the C60 species.

Kroto, Curl, and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of this new class of carbon compounds.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Buckyball

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Buckyball structure
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Picture of Buckyball


Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for December 2005 )