Illustration of Fullerene

1952-1991 Fullerene

The book of science

Tom Sharp

L. V. Radushkevich, V. M. Lukyanovich, Morinobu Endo, Sumio Iijima, Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Robert Curl, Richard Smalley chemistry Illustration of Fullerene


Fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, spheres, tubes, and tubes with spherical ends, simple carbon allotropes of linked hexagonal and pentagonal rings, also graphene, a flat mesh of linked hexagonal rings can form naturally and have interesting properties. Buckminsterfullerene and spherical fullerenes of various sizes are called buckyballs, and carbon nanotubes are called buckytubes. Nested buckyballs, multiply-walled buckytubes, nanotubes with nanobuds, carbon peapods, doughnut-like tori of various sizes, graphenated buckytubes, heterofullerenes, linked buckyballs, rings of buckyballs, endohedral fullerenes that trap ions or small molecules such as H2O, including metallofullerenes conduct heat and electricity, becoming supercapacitive even superconductive, and have high tensile strength.


Other elements may be trapped inside, or may replace carbons in the geodesic network, or may adhere to the outside of the fullerenes. Unusual physical properties—ductility, tensile strength, conductivity, superconductivity, heat resistance, solubility, and stability.

What can you make with nanotubes?

First of all nanotubes are small. The diameter of a nanotube is maybe a hundred nanometers. The diameter of a human hair is about eighty micrometers, or about a thousand times wider than a nanotube. So your typical craft project with nanotubes will require a great number of them, plus you will need some way to control them so they don’t end up like glitter all over your hands, clothes, and floor. Some people have said we should be able to spin a space elevator out of nanotubes, but you couldn’t make it in your garage since it would have to be thirty-five thousand kilometers long. You might be able to make a nice fishing rod. Even that is a far cry. Did I get all those dimensions right?

Even though it’s silly to suggest that a person could construct a fishing rod using nanotubes in a garage, it’s not out of the question, with the right machines, to construct a space elevator stretching thirty-five thousand kilometers. The alternatives could be more expensive.

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