English chemist who, with Richard E. Smalley and Robert F. Curl, Jr.,
was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their joint discovery
of the carbon compounds called fullerenes.
In a series of experiments carried out in September 1985, the two men, along with Robert Curl, Smalley's associate at Rice, generated clusters of carbon atoms by vaporizing graphite in an atmosphere of helium. Some of the spectra they obtained from the vaporization corresponded to previously unknown forms of carbon containing even numbers of carbon atoms ranging from 40 to more than 100 atoms. Most of the new carbon molecules had a structure of C60. The researchers recognized that this molecule's atoms are bonded together into a highly symmetrical, hollow structure that resembles a sphere or ball. C60 is a polygon with 60 vertices and 32 faces, 12 of which are pentagons and 20 of which are hexagons--the same geometry as that of a soccer ball.
In the 1985 paper describing their work, the discoverers chose the
whimsical name buckminsterfullerene for C60, after the American architect
R. Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic dome designs have a structure
similar to that atom. The discovery of the unique structure of fullerenes,
or buckyballs, as this class of carbon compounds came to be known, opened
up an entirely new branch of chemistry.
Main Page | About Us | All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Timeline of Nobel Prize Winners is not affiliated with The Nobel Foundation. External sites are not endorsed or supported by http://www.nobel-winners.com/ Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved.