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Buckminsterfullerene

The meaning of «buckminsterfullerene»

Buckminsterfullerene is a type of fullerene with the formula C60. It has a cage-like fused-ring structure (truncated icosahedron) that resembles a soccer ball, made of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons. Each carbon atom has three bonds. It is a black solid that dissolves in hydrocarbon solvents to produce a violet solution. The compound has received intense study, although few real world applications have been found.

Buckminsterfullerene is the most common naturally occurring fullerene. Small quantities of it can be found in soot.[3][4] It also exists in space. Neutral C60 has been observed in planetary nebulae[5] and several types of star.[6] The ionised form, C60+, has been identified in the interstellar medium[7] and is the carrier of several diffuse interstellar bands.[8]

Theoretical predictions of buckyball molecules appeared in the late 1960s  and early 1970s,[9][10][11] but these reports went largely unnoticed. Buckminsterfullerene was first generated in 1984 by Eric Rohlfing, Donald Cox and Andrew Kaldor[12][13] using a laser to vaporize carbon in a supersonic helium beam. In 1985 their work was repeated by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Sean O'Brien, Robert Curl, and Richard Smalley at Rice University, who recognized the structure of C60 as buckminsterfullerene.[14]

Concurrent but unconnected to the Kroto-Smalley work, astrophysicists were working with spectroscopists to study infrared emissions from giant red carbon stars.[15][16][17] Smalley and team were able to use a laser vaporization technique to create carbon clusters which could potentially emit infrared at the same wavelength as had been emitted by the red carbon star.[15][18] Hence, the inspiration came to Smalley and team to use the laser technique on graphite to generate fullerenes.

C60 was discovered in 1985 by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley. Using laser evaporation of graphite they found Cn clusters (where n > 20 and even) of which the most common were C60 and C70. A solid rotating graphite disk was used as the surface from which carbon was vaporized using a laser beam creating hot plasma that was then passed through a stream of high-density helium gas.[19] The carbon species were subsequently cooled and ionized resulting in the formation of clusters. Clusters ranged in molecular masses, but Kroto and Smalley found predominance in a C60 cluster that could be enhanced further by allowing the plasma to react longer. They also discovered that the C60 molecule formed a cage-like structure, a regular truncated icosahedron.[15][19]

Kroto, Curl and Smalley were awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their roles in the discovery of buckminsterfullerene and the related class of molecules, the fullerenes.[9]

The experimental evidence, a strong peak at 720 atomic mass units, indicated that a carbon molecule with 60 carbon atoms was forming, but provided no structural information. The research group concluded after reactivity experiments, that the most likely structure was a spheroidal molecule. The idea was quickly rationalized as the basis of an icosahedral symmetry closed cage structure. Kroto mentioned geodesic dome structures of the noted futurist and inventor Buckminster Fuller as influences in the naming of this particular substance as buckminsterfullerene.[9]

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