Fullerenes are the third allotropic form of carbon material (after graphite and diamond). Fullerenes are large molecules of carbon that are arranged in a form that looks much different from the shapes of graphite or diamond. Fullerenes are arranged in a form that is spherical, ellipsoid, or cylindrical. Fullerenes are about 1 nanometer in diameter. This compares to 0.16 nanometer for a water molecule.
Fullerenes were discovered during laser spectroscopy experiments at Rice University in September 1985. The 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Professors Robert F. Curl, Jr., Richard E. Smalley, and Sir Harold W. Kroto for their discovery. Fullerenes were named after Richard Buckminster Fuller, an architect known for the design of geodesic domes, which resemble spherical fullerenes in appearance.
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Another allotrope of carbon is a spongy solid that is extremely lightweight and, unusually, attracted to magnets. The inventors of this new form of carbon—a magnetic carbon nanofoam—say it could someday find medical applications.
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