Fullerene Hybridization Is More Complex Than You Think

Fullerene hybridization, bonding type and electronic structure of buckyball are the subjects of many ongoing researches.

Buckminsterfullerene shows absolutely amazing physical and chemical properties that could be used for many possible applications.

In this article you will learn more elaborate facts about fullerene hybridization and therefore gain a better understanding of this topic.

Be a part of this exciting process that could lead to the scientific revolution and change the world as we know it.


Fullerene Hybridization – Why Is It So Interesting?

As a start imagine the model of C₆₀. What you can see is a perfectly symmetrical molecule. In fact you are visualizing the most symmetrical molecule of all. That is already something that should grab your attention.

You also probably know it resembles the soccer ball. This means it consists of twelve pentagons and twenty hexagons.

Now forget the leather and concentrate on the seams only. What you have left are 60 vertexes of carbon atoms. There are precisely 60 single bonds and 30 double bonds between them. This means there are 90 covalent bonds.

You should also know that in geometry it is a truncated icosahedron. There are twenty regular hexagonal faces and twelve regular pentagonal faces and also ninety edges and 30 vertices.

Therefore we can assume it is a perfect sphere.


What Is the Hybridization of Carbon in Fullerene according to the VSEPR Theory

The valence shell electron pair repulsion theory (VSEPR) determines the geometry of particular molecules based on the number of electron pairs that surround their central atoms.

In Buckminsterfullerene structure are all carbon atoms equivalent and there is the usual valence of four in between them.

So, according to the VSEPR theory each carbon atom has sp² hybridization.


Let’s Have a Closer Look at It

Each carbon atom creates three σ bonds. These bonds have their sp² orbitals and there is also one π- bond that has the remaining p-orbital.

This means that the remaining p-orbital is available for the π- bonding with one of the adjacent carbon atoms.


Now, Why We Should Think about It in More Complex Way?

Normally, the sp² orbitals lie in the same plane. For example graphite has an infinite number of planar sheets of sp² carbons.

The thing is that the proposed structure of buckyball is not planar.

It is true that all sp² hybrid orbitals are in the same plane, but if you look again at the model of C₆₀ it is obvious that the environment at each carbon atom is not planar.


Did You Know?

  • According to the latest research the actual hybridization is not sp², but sp²∙³. The sp² hybridization is used as a first approach in order to create simple and sufficient model of the electronic structure and bonding of buckyballs.
  • This explains that the angle between a C-C bond vector and a p axis is 101.6°C and not 90°C as in the planar graphite.
  • The concavity at each sp² carbon centre causes a certain strain in the molecule. The Buckminsterfullerene is perfectly symmetrical and this symmetry helps distribute the strain evenly across the whole molecule.


A Perfect Structure Promises Limitless Number of Possible Applications

That is also the main reason why C₆₀ is the most researched fullerene.

It has with no doubt outstanding chemical and physical properties that could be used in many possible applications.

In this article you have learned important facts about fullerene hybridization.

Now you also know that according to the latest research the actual hybridization is sp²∙³.

The nanotechnology is fast-evolving science. Do you think we will witness a major breakthrough in a near future? Is that a matter of more advanced technology? Please share your opinion with us.

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