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A fullerene is a molecule of carbon in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, tube, and many other shapes. Spherical fullerenes, also referred to as Buckminsterfullerenes or buckyballs, resemble the balls used in association football. Cylindrical fullerenes are also called carbon nanotubes (buckytubes). Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings. Unless they are cylindrical, they must also contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings. "Fullerene", Encyclopædia Britannica on-line The first fullerene molecule to be discovered, and the family's namesake, buckminsterfullerene (C60), was manufactured in 1985 by Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, James Heath, Sean O'Brien, and Harold Kroto at Rice University. The name was an homage to Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic 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". Fullerenes have since been found to occur in nature. More recently, fullerenes have been detected in outer space. According to astronomer Letizia Stanghellini, "It’s possible that buckyballs from outer space provided seeds for life on Earth." The discovery of fullerenes greatly expanded the number of known carbon allotropes, which had previously been limited to graphite, graphene, diamond, and amorphous carbon such as soot and charcoal. Buckyballs and buckytubes have been the subject of intense research, both for their chemistry and for their technological applications, especially in materials science, electronics, and nanotechnology.


The icosahedral C60H60 cage was mentioned in 1965 as a possible topological structure.{{cite journal |last1=Schultz|first1=H.P. |year = 1965 |title = Topological Organic Chemistry. Polyhedranes and Prismanes |journal = Journal of Organic Chemistry |volume = 30|pages = 1361–1364 |doi = 10.1021/jo01016a005 |issue=5}} Eiji Osawa of Toyohashi University of Technology predicted the existence of C60 in 1970.{{cite journal |last = Halford|first = B. |date = 9 October 2006 |title = The World According to Rick |url = http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/84/8441cover.html |journal = Chemical & Engineering News |volume = 84|issue = 41|pages = 13–19 |doi = 10.1021/cen-v084n041.p013}} He noticed that the structure of a corannulene molecule was a subset of an Association football shape, and he hypothesised that a full ball shape could also exist. Japanese scientific journals reported his idea, but neither it nor any translations of it reached Europe or the Americas. Also in 1970, R. W. Henson (then of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment) proposed the structure and made a model of C60. Unfortunately, the evidence for this new form of carbon was very weak and was not accepted, even by his colleagues. The results were never published but were acknowledged in Carbon in 1999. In 1973, independently from Henson, a group of scientists from the USSR made a quantum-chemical analysis of the stability of C60 and calculated its electronic structure. As in the previous cases, the scientific community did not accept the theoretical prediction. The paper was published in 1973 in Proceedings of the USSR Academy of Sciences (in Russian). Kroto, Curl, and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of this class of molecules. C60 and other fullerenes were later noticed occurring outside the laboratory (for example, in normal candle- soot). By 1990 it was relatively easy to produce gram-sized samples of fullerene powder using the techniques of Donald Huffman, Wolfgang Krätschmer, Lowell D. Lamb, and Konstantinos Fostiropoulos. Fullerene purification remains a challenge to chemists and to a large extent determines fullerene prices. So-called endohedral fullerenes have ions or small molecules incorporated inside the cage atoms. Fullerene is an unusual reactant in many organic reactions such as the Bingel reaction discovered in 1993. Carbon nanotubes were first discovered and synthesized in 1991. Minute quantities of the fullerenes, in the form of C60, C70, C76, C82 and C84 molecules, are produced in nature, hidden in soot and formed by lightning discharges in the atmosphere. In 2010, fullerenes (C60) have been discovered in a cloud of cosmic dust surrounding a distant star 6500 light years away. Using NASA's Spitzer infrared telescope the scientists spotted the molecules' unmistakable infrared signature. Sir Harry Kroto, who shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of buckyballs commented: "This most exciting breakthrough provides convincing evidence that the buckyball has, as I long suspected, existed since time immemorial in the dark recesses of our galaxy." Stars reveal carbon 'spaceballs', BBC, 22 July 2010.


The discoverers of the Buckminsterfullerene (C60) allotrope of carbon named it after Richard Buckminster Fuller, a noted architectural modeler who popularized the geodesic dome. Since buckminsterfullerenes have a similar shape to those of such domes, they thought the name appropriate. Buckminsterfullerene, C60. Sussex Fullerene Group. chm.bris.ac.uk As the discovery of the fullerene family came after buckminsterfullerene, the shortened name 'fullerene' is used to refer to the family of fullerenes. The suffix "-ene" indicates that each C atom is covalently bonded to three others (instead of the maximum of four), a situation that classically would correspond to the existence of bonds involving two pairs of electrons (" double bonds").

Types of fullerene

Since the discovery of fullerenes in 1985, structural variations on fullerenes have evolved well beyond the individual clusters themselves. Examples include:
  • Buckyball clusters: smallest member is (unsaturated version of dodecahedrane) and the most common is ;
  • Nanotubes: hollow tubes of very small dimensions, having single or multiple walls; potential applications in electronics industry;
  • Megatubes: larger in diameter than nanotubes and prepared with walls of different thickness; potentially used for the transport of a variety of molecules of different sizes;
  • polymers: chain, two-dimensional and three-dimensional polymers are formed under high-pressure high-temperature conditions; single-strand polymers are formed using the Atom Transfer Radical Addition Polymerization (ATRAP) route;
  • nano"onions": spherical particles based on multiple carbon layers surrounding a buckyball core;
  • linked "ball-and-chain" dimers: two buckyballs linked by a carbon chain;
  • fullerene rings.



Buckminsterfullerene is the smallest fullerene molecule containing pentagonal and hexagonal rings in which no two pentagons share an edge (which can be destabilizing, as in pentalene). It is also most common in terms of natural occurrence, as it can often be found in soot. The structure of C60 is a truncated icosahedron, which resembles an association football ball of the type made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons, with a carbon atom at the vertices of each polygon and a bond along each polygon edge. The van der Waals diameter of a C60 molecule is about 1.1 nanometers (nm). The nucleus to nucleus diameter of a C60 molecule is about 0.71 nm. The C60 molecule has two bond lengths. The 6:6 ring bonds (between two hexagons) can be considered " double bonds" and are shorter than the 6:5 bonds (between a hexagon and a pentagon). Its average bond length is 1.4 angstroms. Silicon buckyballs have been created around metal ions.

Boron buckyball

A type of buckyball which uses boron atoms, instead of the usual carbon, was predicted and described in 2007. The B80 structure, with each atom forming 5 or 6 bonds, is predicted to be more stable than the C60 buckyball.

Other buckyballs

Another fairly common fullerene is C70, In mathematical terms, the structure of a fullerene is a trivalent convex polyhedron with pentagonal and hexagonal faces. In graph theory, the term fullerene refers to any 3- regular, planar graph with all faces of size 5 or 6 (including the external face). It follows from Euler's polyhedron formula, V − E + F = 2 (where V, E, F are the numbers of vertices, edges, and faces), that there are exactly 12 pentagons in a fullerene and V/2 − 10 hexagons. The smallest fullerene is the dodecahedral C20. There are no fullerenes with 22 vertices. Heterofullerenes have heteroatoms substituting carbons in cage or tube-shaped structures. They were discovered in 1993Harris, D.J. "Discovery of Nitroballs: Research in Fullerene Chemistry" http://www.usc.edu/CSSF/History/1993/CatWin_S05.html and greatly expand the overall fullerene class of compounds. Notable examples include boron, nitrogen ( azafullerene), oxygen, and phosphorus derivatives. Trimetasphere carbon nanomaterials were discovered by researchers at Virginia Tech and licensed exclusively to Luna Innovations. This class of novel molecules comprises 80 carbon atoms () forming a sphere which encloses a complex of three metal atoms and one nitrogen atom. These fullerenes encapsulate metals which puts them in the subset referred to as metallofullerenes. Trimetaspheres have the potential for use in diagnostics (as safe imaging agents), therapeutics and in organic solar cells.

Carbon nanotubes

Nanotubes are cylindrical fullerenes. These tubes of carbon are usually only a few nanometres wide, but they can range from less than a micrometer to several millimeters in length. They often have closed ends, but can be open-ended as well. There are also cases in which the tube reduces in diameter before closing off. Their unique molecular structure results in extraordinary macroscopic properties, including high tensile strength, high electrical conductivity, high ductility, high heat conductivity, and relative chemical inactivity (as it is cylindrical and "planar" — that is, it has no "exposed" atoms that can be easily displaced). One proposed use of carbon nanotubes is in paper batteries, developed in 2007 by researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Carbon nanobuds

Nanobuds have been obtained by adding buckminsterfullerenes to carbon nanotubes.


Fullerites are the solid-state manifestation of fullerenes and related compounds and materials. "Ultrahard fullerite" is a coined term frequently used to describe material produced by high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) processing of fullerite. Such treatment converts fullerite into a nanocrystalline form of diamond which has been reported to exhibit remarkable mechanical properties. As a result, C60 in water tends to pick up two more electrons and become an anion. The nC60 described below may be the result of C60 trying to form a loose metallic bond.


Fullerenes are stable, but not totally unreactive. The sp2-hybridized carbon atoms, which are at their energy minimum in planar graphite, must be bent to form the closed sphere or tube, which produces angle strain. The characteristic reaction of fullerenes is electrophilic addition at 6,6-double bonds, which reduces angle strain by changing sp2-hybridized carbons into sp3-hybridized ones. The change in hybridized orbitals causes the bond angles to decrease from about 120° in the sp2 orbitals to about 109.5° in the sp3 orbitals. This decrease in bond angles allows for the bonds to bend less when closing the sphere or tube, and thus, the molecule becomes more stable. Other atoms can be trapped inside fullerenes to form inclusion compounds known as endohedral fullerenes. An unusual example is the egg-shaped fullerene Tb3N@C84, which violates the isolated pentagon rule.


Fullerenes are sparingly soluble in many solvents. Common solvents for the fullerenes include aromatics, such as toluene, and others like carbon disulfide. Solutions of pure buckminsterfullerene have a deep purple color. Solutions of C70 are a reddish brown. The higher fullerenes C76 to C84 have a variety of colors. C76 has two optical forms, while other higher fullerenes have several structural isomers. Fullerenes are the only known allotrope of carbon that can be dissolved in common solvents at room temperature. NOTE: SOURCES MUST, MUST BE PROVIDED LINE BY LINE FOR DATA VALUES. --> Some fullerene structures are not soluble because they have a small band gap between the ground and excited states. These include the small fullerenes C28, Solvents that are able to dissolve buckminsterfullerene (C60 and C70) are listed at left in order from highest solubility. The solubility value given is the approximate saturated concentration. Solubility of C60 in some solvents shows unusual behaviour due to existence of solvate phases (analogues of crystallohydrates). For example, solubility of C60 in benzene solution shows maximum at about 313 K. Crystallization from benzene solution at temperatures below maximum results in formation of triclinic solid solvate with four benzene molecules C60·4C6H6 which is rather unstable in air. Out of solution, this structure decomposes into usual face-centered cubic (fcc) C60 in few minutes' time. At temperatures above solubility maximum the solvate is not stable even when immersed in saturated solution and melts with formation of fcc C60. Crystallization at temperatures above the solubility maximum results in formation of pure fcc C60. Millimeter-sized crystals of C60 and C70 can be grown from solution both for solvates and for pure fullerenes.

Quantum mechanics

In 1999, researchers from the University of Vienna demonstrated that wave-particle duality applied to molecules such as fullerene.



Some fullerenes (e.g. C76, C78, C80, and C84) are inherently chiral because they are D2-symmetric, and have been successfully resolved. Research efforts are ongoing to develop specific sensors for their enantiomers.


Two theories have been proposed to describe the molecular mechanisms that make fullerenes. The older, “bottom-up” theory proposes that they are built atom-by-atom. The alternative “top-down” approach claims that fullerenes form when much larger structures break into constituent parts. In 2013 researchers discovered that asymmetrical fullerenes formed from larger structures settle into stable fullerenes. The synthesized substance was a particular metallofullerene consisting of 84 carbon atoms with two additional carbon atoms and two yttrium atoms inside the cage. The process produced approximately 100 micrograms. However, they found that the asymmetrical molecule could theoretically collapse to form nearly every known fullerene and metallofullerene. Minor perturbations involving the breaking of a few molecular bonds cause the cage to become highly symmetrical and stable. This insight supports the theory that fullerenes can be formed from graphene when the appropriate molecular bonds are severed. Support for top-down theory of how ‘buckyballs’ form. kurzweilai.net. 24 September 2013

Production technology

Fullerene production processes comprise the following five subprocesses: (i) synthesis of fullerenes or fullerene-containing soot; (ii) extraction; (iii) separation (purification) for each fullerene molecule, yielding pure fullerenes such as C60; (iv) synthesis of derivatives (mostly using the techniques of organic synthesis); (v) other post-processing such as dispersion into a matrix. The two synthesis methods used in practice are the arc method, and the combustion method. The latter, discovered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is preferred for large scale industrial production.


Fullerenes have been extensively used for several biomedical applications including the design of high-performance MRI contrast agents, X-Ray imaging contrast agents, photodynamic therapy and drug and gene delivery, summarized in several comprehensive reviews.G. Lalwani and B. Sitharaman, Multifunctional fullerene and metallofullerene based nanobiomaterials, NanoLIFE 08/2013; 3:1342003. DOI: 10.1142/S1793984413420038 Full Text PDF

Tumor research

While past cancer research has involved radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy is important to study because breakthroughs in treatments for tumor cells will give more options to patients with different conditions. Recent experiments using HeLa cells in cancer research involves the development of new photosensitizers with increased ability to be absorbed by cancer cells and still trigger cell death. It is also important that a new photosensitizer does not stay in the body for a long time to prevent unwanted cell damage. Functionalizing the fullerenes aims to increase the solubility of the molecule by the cancer cells. Cancer cells take up these molecules at an increased rate because of an upregulation of transporters in the cancer cell, in this case amino acid transporters will bring in the L-arginine and L-phenylalanine functional groups of the fullerenes. When absorbed by cancer cells and exposed to light radiation, the reaction that creates reactive oxygen damages the DNA, proteins, and lipids that make up the cancer cell. This cellular damage forces the cancerous cell to go through apoptosis, which can lead to the reduction in size of a tumor. Once the light radiation treatment is finished the fullerene will reabsorb the free radicals to prevent damage of other tissues. Since this treatment focuses on cancer cells, it is a good option for patients whose cancer cells are within reach of light radiation. As this research continues, the treatment may penetrate deeper into the body and be absorbed by cancer cells more effectively.

Safety and toxicity

A comprehensive and recent review on fullerene toxicity is given by Lalwani et al. These authors review the works on fullerene toxicity beginning in the early 1990s to present, and conclude that very little evidence gathered since the discovery of fullerenes indicate that C60 is toxic. The toxicity of these carbon nanoparticles is not only dose and time-dependent, but also depends on a number of other factors such as: type (e.g., C60, C70, M@C60, M@C82, functional groups used to water solubilize these nanoparticles (e.g., OH, COOH), and method of administration (e.g., intravenous, intraperitoneal). The authors therefore recommend that pharmacology of every new fullerene- or metallofullerene-based complex must be assessed individually as a different compound.

Popular culture

Examples of fullerenes in popular culture are numerous. Fullerenes appeared in fiction well before scientists took serious interest in them. In a humorously speculative 1966 column for New Scientist, David Jones suggested that it may be possible to create giant hollow carbon molecules by distorting a plane hexagonal net by the addition of impurity atoms. On 4 September 2010, Google used an interactively rotatable fullerene Google archive of the Sep. 4 2010 logo. Google C60 as the second 'o' in their logo to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the fullerenes. 25th anniversary of the Buckyball celebrated by interactive Google Doodle, The Daily Telegraph. 4 September 2010 Google doodle marks buckyball anniversary. The Guardian. 4 September 2010.

See also


External links

"green air" © 2007 - Ingo Malchow, Webdesign Neustrelitz
This article based upon the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullerene, the free encyclopaedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
Further informations available on the list of authors and history: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fullerene&action=history
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