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Fullerene: Its Definition, Types and Scope

BY: Muniba Safdar | Category: Nanotechnology | Submitted: 2010-11-11 07:45:07
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Article Summary: "What are Fullerenes? A fullerene is defined as a pure carbon form having at least 60 atoms. It exists in hollow sphere, ellipsoid (a surface whose plane sections are all ellipses or circles), or tube form..."

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A fullerene is defined as a pure carbon form having at least 60 atoms. It exists in hollow sphere, ellipsoid (a surface whose plane sections are all ellipses or circles), or tube form. Fullerenes having spherical forms are also called Bucky-balls, and cylindrical forms are referred to as carbon nanotubes or Bucky tubes. They are very similar in structure to graphite (stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings and sometimes pentagonal or hexagonal).

A fullerene was discovered in 1985 by Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, James Heath, Sean O'Brien, and Harold Kroto at Rice University. The first fullerene was discovered in the name of buckminsterfullerene (C60), and its name was homage to Buckminster Fuller. Robert Curl got Noble Prize "for the discovery of fullerenes" in 1996.

However, Bucky-ball discovery has directed research on a new class of materials called fullerenes, or buckminsterfullerene (smallest fullerene). As we already know some of carbon allotropes, which are limited to diamond, graphite, nanotube, coal or amorphous carbon. The discovery of bucky-balls significantly lengthened carbon allotropes and has become the matter of passionate research in the field of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), material sciences, and electronics and in nanotechnology. The researches have shown that fullerene's work is largely based on theoretical and experimental systems.

Types of fullerene
Fullerenes have many structural variations, and they have progressed well in 1985. There are some examples described below;

• Nanotubes or Cylindrical fullerenes: are hollow in shape, having very small dimension. Nanotubes that are made of carbon are usually wide and can range only a few nanometers to several millimeters in length. They have closed and open end. Main use of carbon nanotube is in electronics industry, space technology (to produce high-tensile carbon cables required by a space elevator) and in paper batteries.

• Buckyballs clusters: is the smallest fullerene (no two pentagons share an edge) occurs in nature. Its tiniest member is C20 (dodecahedron) and most common one is C60 (icosahedron or resembles a soccer ball, twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons). The smallest fullerene has great importance in terms of natural occurrence, and it can be found in soot or coal.

• Megatubes: as the name indicates, mega which means large, these tubes have larger diameter than nanotubes. The walls of megatubes are prepared with different thickness. These types of tubes are mostly used in transport of a variety of molecules having different sizes.

• Polymers: is macromolecules connected by covalent chemical bonds. Polymers are mainly consists of carbon chain. Under high pressure and high temperature some two-dimensional and three-dimensional polymers are formed.

• Nano-onion: is a form of buckyball solid, having spherical particles (based on multiple carbon layers).

• Linked "ball-and-chain" dimers: two buckyballs linked by a carbon chain.

• Fullerene rings.


With the beginning of "Nanotechnology" various things are appeared to the world. Fullerenes got the focus in the field of nanotechnology. NASA, in collaboration with Geochemist Lynn Becker discovered naturally occurring fullerenes.

Because of their unique chemistry in material sciences, researchers have discovered various applications of fullerenes which includes; medical applications, superconductors, and fiber-optics.

• Electronic properties of nanotubes
• Synthesis and properties of graphene and Nano graphite
• Carbon super lattice
• Synthesis and properties of carbon onions and Nano diamonds
• Inorganic fullerenes and nanotubes
• Synthesis and chemical properties of fullerene derivatives
• Carbon cluster formation and phase transitions in Nano carbons
• Photoelectric and optic properties of fullerenes and nanotubes
• Biological and medical features of Nano carbons
• Approaches of Nano carbon characterizations
• Industrial applications of Nano carbons

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