What’s C60?

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C60, also known as a buckyball, is a naturally occurring carbon molecule with a spherical shape made up of hexagons and pentagons. Discovered in 1985, it was named after Buckminster Fuller and has become the subject of great attraction for the scientific community. C60 has been used to create new superconductors for industrial applications.

C60 is a naturally occurring carbon molecule. It is part of the group of carbon molecules known as fullerenes, one of four groups of carbon molecules known to occur in nature. Popularly, C60 is often referred to as a buckyball.

C60 is more amazing because of its beautiful structure. With sixty carbon atoms, the molecule forms a roughly spherical shape, similar to that of a soccer ball. It is made up of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons, all connected with carbon atoms at each corner. C60 is commonly called the most symmetric molecule due to the large amount of symmetry operations able to map to it.

C60 was discovered in 1985 by a group of scientists and published in Nature the same year. It was discovered tangentially to the research they were undertaking, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. Luckily, the scientific community fell in love with buckyballs and the team was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of C60. C60 and related molecules were named fullerenes, and later buckyballs, after Buckminster Fuller, a 20th-century architect famous for his use of geodesic domes.

After its discovery, the C60 was only available in very limited quantities due to the difficulties associated with its production. It was soon found to occur in nature, however, and by 1990 techniques had been developed to produce it in much larger quantities with less labor.

Solid forms of stable carbon have long fascinated humans, as the two most famous forms make readily apparent. Both graphite and diamonds have played pivotal roles in science and the popular imagination for much of human history. It is therefore not surprising that the solid states of C60 are the subject of great attraction for the scientific community.

A practical application of C60 in the solid state has been the creation of compounds of C60 and potassium or rubidium, generating new superconductors. These superconductors are capable of operating with zero resistance at relatively high temperatures, making them ideal for industrial application.

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