Fullerene Soot – An Inconspicuous Powdery Substance with a Precious Content

Fullerene soot is absolutely essential part of fullerene production; there is no doubt about that. Actually its synthesis by the arc method is a common way how to produce fullerenes in gram-sized quantities in laboratories.

From today’s perspective it looks pretty simple, but in the beginning it was a hard nut to crack. The nanotechnology could be compared to a really thrilling detective story and you can be a part of it.

In this article you will get to know all interesting facts about fullerene soot.

You will also learn more about the very first fullerene synthesis which set the base for fullerene production.

Last but not least you will be familiar with the five stages of modern synthesis of fullerenes.


Fullerene Soot – A Brief Look Back in the History

Fullerenes were discovered by a team of scientists around Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley and Robert Curl at Rice University in Texas in 1985. As most of the greatest discoveries also this one was a lucky coincidence.

Nevertheless, the scientists were aware that they had observed something completely new.

In order to prove its existence, they knew they had to produce more of it.

They had been trying to do so for two years, but unfortunately this team failed to produce more significant amounts of fullerenes.


Donald Huffman and Wolfgang Kratschmer Made It Happen

It is true they were also studying carbon clusters the same as the team at Rice University, but from completely different perspective. They wanted to gain a better understanding of the universe by investigating how small particles absorb the light.

They had constructed a simple device that would have produced a lot of tiny particles.

And that is when it became really interesting.


A Simple Machine Showed Great Results

Imagine two graphite rods that are connected to the high electric current circuit in helium atmosphere. That was pretty much it. They used a hacksaw blade which purpose was to pull the rods together.

Carbon vaporized and formed a lot of clusters in the places the rods touched.

And that was the soot.


So what is the soot?

It is a black powdery substance, a mass of impure carbon. Soot is in fact a result of incomplete burning of organic matter.

First they could produce only microscopic amounts, but soon after it was milligrams and that was something nobody had managed before.

Huffman and Kratschmer provided a strong evidence of the existence of fullerenes and they also started their production.


The Synthesis of Fullerene Containing Soot by Arc Method Is a Common Way of Fullerene Production

This way it is possible to produce gram-sized quantities of fullerenes in laboratories. The process of production is not difficult. However, the purification process is quite a challenge.

In order to achieve the highest quality nanomaterial, the modern synthesis consists of five stages.

  1. The first step is the already mentioned synthesis of fullerene-containing soot. The result should be soot that contains between 10 – 15 % of soluble fullerenes.
  2. The second stage is the extraction. The fullerenes are extracted from the soot either by the solvent or sublimation method.
  3. Then follows the process of chemical purification. It is necessary, because the two previous stages could bring impurity molecules.
  4. The fourth stage is the organic synthesis of derivatives.
  5. And the last step is the dispersion into the matrix or other post-processing.


Fullerenes Are Made of Fullerene-containing Soot

Now you are certain that fullerene soot is absolutely essential part of the fullerene production process.

You have learned that the most common way of fullerene production is the synthesis of the fullerene-containing soot by the arc method and you are also aware that the modern synthesis consists of five stages.

Last but not least, you know the astonishing history of the first fullerene preparation that in fact led to the development of a whole new industry.

Fullerene soot is generally available in most volumes and many grades standards. Do you think this is a positive development towards more-cost effective production of fullerenes? We will appreciate, if you share your opinion with us.


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