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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Foundations of Nanotechnology

The 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded jointly to Robert F. Curl, Jr. , Sir Harold W. Kroto , and Richard E. Smalley for their discovery of fullerenes.Fullerenes are formed when vaporized carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas. The gaseous carbon is obtained e.g. by directing an intense pulse of laser light at a carbon surface. The released carbon atoms are mixed with a stream of helium gas and combine to form clusters of some few up to hundreds of atoms. The gas is then led into a vacuum chamber where it expands and is cooled to some degrees above absolute zero. The carbon clusters can then be analyzed with mass spectrometry.Curl, Kroto and Smalley performed this experiment together with graduate students J.R. Heath and S.C. O’Brien during a period of eleven days in 1985. By fine-tuning the experiment they were able in particular to produce clusters with 60 carbon atoms and clusters with 70. Clusters of 60 carbon atoms, C60, were the most abundant. They found high stability in C60, which suggested a molecular structure of great symmetry. It was suggested that C60 could be a "truncated icosahedron cage", a polyhedron with 20 hexagonal (6-angled) surfaces and 12 pentagonal (5-angled) surfaces. The pattern of a European football has exactly this structure, as does the geodetic dome designed by the American architect R. Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. The researchers named the newly-discovered structure buckminsterfullerene after him.Source (


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