Fullerenes are relatively new allotropes of carbon discovered in 1985 by Harold W Kroto, Robert F Curl, and Richard E Smalley. The new allotrope with a truncated icosahedron structure earned the name of Buckminsterfullerene.
Earlier, six allotropes of Carbon were already known. These were two kinds of diamond, chaoit, carbon and two kinds of graphite. In 1990, C60 was obtained in an isolated form and from the study of these isolated types, new and amazing properties of C60 Fullerenes were discovered.
Properties of Fullerenes
The structure of Fullerenes is like that of a soccer ball. It has 20 hexagonal rings and 12 pentagonal rings in a closed structure like that of a ball. The carbon atoms bond with three other carbon atoms each. Fullerenes react readily with elements that are electron rich but are otherwise highly stable. Fullerenes are soluble in many common solvents. They can dissolve to a large extent in benzene, chloroform and toluene.
Where Fullerenes are found
Fullerenes have been discovered in abundance in carbon soot. These exist in many forms such as buckytube forms exhibiting icosahedral structures, same as fullerene balls. Another form called Carbon onions have also been discovered which are enclosed one within the other consisting of millions of atoms.
Commercial production of Fullerenes is still very limited. The applications of fullerenes are still being widely researched.
Initially, it was thought possible to produce fullerenes with laser vaporization of carbon. However, the resulting fullerenes were only very little. Later in 1990, a special apparatus developed by Kretschmer and Huffman in Germany used vaporization of graphite to isolate Fullerenes.
Today, a computer controlled fullerene plant, and the only one operates at MER corporation
Applications of Fullerenes
As mentioned earlier, wide applications of C60 Fullerenes is still under study. However, the properties exhibited by these can make for some striking inventions. Until now, the application of Fullerenes is limited to this site.
2- Surface coatings
3- Non-linear optics
4- Artificial photosynthesis
5- Some biological applications
In cosmetics, due to its antioxidant properties and as cytoprotectors, they are widely used in sunscreens and facial creams. In medicine too the use of fullerenes is being studied as a potential antiviral agent and as a medium for delivering drugs. In other discoveries, the use of fullerenes in solar cells could exponentially increase the efficiency of these cells. This could revolutionalize solar energy harnessing.
You can learn more about latest discoveries on Fullerenes through news websites such as foxnews.com.