DOE Science Showcase - Fullerenes

Fullerene and Carbon Nanotube

Fullerene and Carbon Nanotube
Image credit: Basic Energy Sciences,
Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy


In 1985, a group of scientists, including Robert Curl and Richard Smalley, made an interesting discovery, a new allotrope of carbon that they called the buckminsterfullerene.  Buckminsterfullerene, or “buckyball” for short, is named after the famous architect Buckminster Fuller who worked with geodesic domes of a similar shape.  A fullerene is a molecule of carbon that comes in a variety of forms. One of the forms discovered was that of 60 carbon atoms in the shape of a geodesic dome or something similar to a soccer ball.  Another of the shapes in this class of carbon molecules is that of a cylindrical fullerene, which is referred to as a carbon nanotube.

Fullerenes can be produced by sending a current between two nearby graphite electrodes; the resulting sooty residue cools, and fullerenes can be isolated in order to be studied.  These nanomaterials have excellent mechanical, chemical, and electronic properties that are being utilized in a variety of technological, computing, and energy areas.  Heat resistance, strength, and superconductivity are a few of their extraordinary properties.  Research at the U.S. Department of Energy is looking into different ways to create these carbon allotropes and ways in which to utilize different shapes, such as nanoribbons for increased electronic properties.

More information about fullerenes, including DOE research reports, publications, and patents, is available in the DOE databases and related resources provided below.

Related Research Information in DOE Databases

For additional information, see the OSTI Catalogue of Collections.

Additional Resources


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