C60 Fullerene Structure

C60 fullerene structure attracts the attention of scientists for some decades now. It was clear that the discovery of fullerenes was a massive breakthrough in the field of nanotechnology as these extraordinary allotropes of carbon have a unique structure that makes them a perfect nanomaterial with many possible applications.

Richard Smalley, one of the trio scientists who discovered fullerenes said: “The buckyball, with sixty carbon atoms, is the most symmetrical form the carbon atom can take. Carbon in its nature has a genius for assembling into buckyballs. The perfect nanotube, that is, the nanotube that the carbon atom naturally wants to make and makes most often, is exactly large enough that one buckyball can roll right down the center.”

The scientists are aware of the fact that the structure is the key; therefore there are many ongoing researches in order to unveil their mystery.

And you can gain an insight into their exciting work.

C60 Fullerene Structure – The Perfect Soccer Ball (Football) Resemblance

As simple as it sounds, that is the most accurate description of the C60 molecule. This truly peculiar soccer ball like formula is formed by twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons and there is a carbon at each vertex of each polygon with a bond along each polygon edge.


Did you know?

It was not any advanced technology or hi-tech computers helping to determine the structure of C60 molecule. In fact after all previous attempts failed, Mr. Richard Smalley decided to build a model by his own using only paper, tape and scissors.

First he used only hexagons and it did not work, but when he added pentagons as Mr. Harry Kroto suggested, it closed.


So What Is the Structure of Fullerene? Let’s Have a Closer Look at It.

C60 is also known as Buckminsterfullerene. It was named after famous American architect, author and futurist Mr. Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller. Its name refers to his design of the famous geodesic dome, which shape is very similar to the molecule of C60.


The Most Common Member of Fullerenes

Buckminsterfullerene is one representative of the fullerenes family. They are pure carbon molecules that form the cage of carbon atoms. They can be either closed (buckyballs) or opened (buckytubes).

In the revolutionary year 1985 the group of scientists at the Rice University made experiments that led to the discovery of fullerenes. They let the graphite to undergo the laser ablation.

They realized C60 is by far the most common fullerene; the second most abundant was C70.

As it was mentioned before the C60 molecule consists of twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons. The centers of the pentagons are the corners of an icosahedron.

Icosahedron is a polyhedron with twenty faces.  There are many types of icosahedra and some of them are more symmetrical than the others.

Our C60 molecule is a truncated icosahedron where each of the pentagon shares its edges with neighboring hexagons.


More Interesting Facts

Buckminsterfullerene is actually the smallest buckyball. In this molecule there are no pentagons in contact. Or said differently they do not share an edge or a corner with another pentagon.

You might also like to know that there was a dispute about the structure and also the name of the C60 molecule.  The argument was between Harry Kroto and Richard Smalley as both of them could not remember who came up with the idea first. The whole situation is described the best by the third of the famous trio, Robert Curl, who said: “Harry was convinced that it was his idea and Rick was convinced it was his idea and I'm convinced it wasn't my idea.”

That was just a minor obstacle that did not influence the results of their research or their friendship.


Symmetry of C60 Molecule

The symmetry of Buckminsterfullerene is one of the most astonishing properties.  In fact there are 120 symmetry operations such as rotations around the axis or reflections in the plane and that project the molecule onto itself. C60 is actually a molecule with the highest number of symmetry operations and therefore it is the most symmetric one.


Euler’s Formula and Descartes’ Theorem

These two theories prove that buckyballs are made from closed cages of carbon hexagons and pentagons.

If we take Euler’s formula as an example, this formula is based on a theorem of the mathematician Leonhard Euler. He proved that a spherical surface that is built up completely from pentagons and hexagons must have precisely twelve pentagons.

Structure and Properties of C60

Crystal StructureFace-centered cubic, cF1924
Space GroupFm3m, No. 225
Lattice Constanta = 1.4154 nm


Chemical FormulaC60
Molar Mass720.66 g·mol−1
AppearanceDark needle-like crystals
Density1.65 g/cm3
Melting Pointsublimates at ~ 600 °C (1,112 °F; 873 K)
Solubility in WaterInsoluble in water


The Summarizing Description of the Structure of Fullerene

Now you can easily associate the C60 molecule with a soccer (football) ball, which is the most simple and also accurate way how to describe the buckyball structure.

This molecule is the most symmetric and as the Euler’s formula and Descartes’ theorem proved, it consists of hexagons and pentagons. Accurately it has to have exactly twelve pentagons.

Its structure is undeniably unique and therefore C60 shows extraordinary properties that have great potential in many applications.

Are you also fascinated by the C60 structure? Please do not hesitate to share your opinion on this topic with us.

Всего комментариев: 0
Оставить комментарий