THE SOCCER BALL MOLECULE:
BUCKMINSTERFULLERENE (C60)Buckminsterfullerene (also called a Buckyball or C
60) was discovered in 1985 by Sir Harold Kroto from the UK, Richard E. Smalley and Robert F. Curl Jr. from the US. These three researchers were awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1996 for their discovery. Buckminsterfullerene's sixty carbon atoms are bonded together into a highly symmetrical, hollow (sphere-like) polygon structure with 60 vertices and 32 faces (12 pentagons and 20 hexagons) giving it exactly the same geometry as that of a soccer ball!
"When the experimental chemists who discovered
C60named it buckminsterfullerene, they accorded to Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the maverick American engineering and architectural genius, a kind of immortality that only a name can confer - particularly when it links a single historical person to a hitherto unrecognized universal design in the material world of nature: the symmetrical molecule C60.Smalley's laboratory equipment could only tell them how many atoms there were in the molecule, not how they were arranged or bonded together. From Fuller's model they intuited that the atoms were arrayed in the shape of a truncated icosahedron - a geodesic dome. Only after a novel phenomenon or concept is named can it be translated into the common currency of thought and speech."
- The Naming of Buckminsterfullerene
Buckyballs are classed as fullerenes (an allotrope of the element carbon.) "Fullerenes are formed when vaporized carbon condenses in an atmosphere of inert gas. One method for producing the gaseous carbon uses an intense pulse of laser light directed at a carbon surface. The released carbon atoms are then 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" - Wolfram Research
Fullerenes are currently under study for potential medicinal use - binding specific antibiotics to the structure to target resistant bacteria and even certain types of cancer cells, such as melanoma.