Bucky Balls - In addition to the more common allotropes of carbon, diamond and graphite there exists a third form which forms a network of structures called fullerenes. The best known, discovered in 1985 is called the bucky ball or to give its technical name, Buckminster fullerene. The football shaped molecules consists of 60 carbon atoms made up of pentagons and hexagons.
By adding belts of atoms to the basic structures it is possible to make a nanotube, C80. Hollow tubular structures known as nanotubes can also be made. These structures consist of two dimensional hexagonal sheets folded together and capped at both ends by a fullerene cap.
It would be very unusual to find any of this naturally, it tends to be produced synthetically in the lab. Large scale production of
fullerenes can be acheived by vaporization of graphite in an electric arc or in a plasma discharge. This produces a mixture of
fullerenes, these can somtimes contain more than 200 carbon atoms. Separation is usually done by dissolving the products in a solvent, and extracting them from there. in 1994 the price of buckminsterfullerine was $1250 a gram, but as techniques for production and purification increase this price should drop dramatically.
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