Fullerenes are cage-like, extremely stable formations of carbon. The most well known member of this molecule family is the C60
molecule, which can be seen on the figure next to this text. The first fullerene to be discovered, and the family's namesake, was buckminsterfullerene C60
, made in 1985 by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley [1
]. The name was an homage to Richard Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes it resembles. The existence of C60
was predicted by Eiji Osawa [2
] of Toyohashi University of Technology in a Japanese magazine in 1970. He noticed that the structure of a corannulene molecule was a subset of a soccer-ball shape, and he made the hypothesis that a full ball shape could also exist. His idea was reported in Japanese magazines, but did not reach Europe or America.
Click on the figure on the right to launch the java-based jmol applet [3
] and have a close look at the C60
molecule. The 60 carbon atoms form 12 non-neighbouring pentagons. There are two different bond lengths with a slightly shorter bond length at the hexagon-hexagon edges, and bit longer at the pentagons edges. The buckyball fullerene is a truncated (T = 3) icosahedron, therefore has full icosahedral symmetry
Our results on fullerenes can be organized into three groups of interest:
] Kroto, H.W, Heath, J.R. O'Brien, S.C., Curl, R.R és Smalley, R.E.: Nature 318, 162 (1985)
] Osawa, E.: Kagaku 25
, 854 (1970).