What Are "buckyballs"?


Quick Answer

Buckyballs are an allotrope, or pure molecular form, of carbon. The full name of the molecule is buckminsterfullerene, after the architect R. Buckminster Fuller, who was famous for designing hollow domes out of simple, repeating polygons. The molecule itself is a tiny hollow globe made up of repeating polygonal bonds.

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Full Answer

Unlike R. Buckminster Fuller's domes, which were constructed out of triangles, buckyballs are made up of an alternating pattern of hexagons and pentagons. Each molecule contains 60 carbon atoms, and each carbon atom within the molecule has three bonds. Buckminsterfullerene was first discovered in 1985. Since their discovery, other spherical allotropes of carbon have also been discovered. These molecules are also sometimes called buckyballs, although they differ from buckminsterfullerene in the number of carbon atoms they possess. These carbon molecules are known as fullerenes.

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