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We Have a Ball

January 27, 2008

The gallery in the main building of Nanotechnology Island has a giant model of buckminsterfullerene.  What’s that?

Buckminsterfullerene is a molecule made of 60 carbon atoms, so it is also called C60 (where the 60 is subscript).  The shorter name ‘buckyball’ is also used, because it resembles a ball.  It’s named after Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the scientist, architect, and philosopher who popularized the geodesic dome (which is similar in structure).  Buckyballs were discovered in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, Sean O’Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley.  The distance from the middle of an atom on one side to the middle of an atom on the other side is about 0.7 nanometres.

If you look at the model, you’ll see that there are both pentagons (five-sided) and hexagons (six-sided), and none of the pentagons share an edge… just like a soccer ball.  How many pentagons are there?  One way to find out is by visiting the model in Second Life and counting them.

By the way, we’re leaving room in the gallery for your exhibits – and NPL may even pay you for them!  For more information about that, see the webpage about the NanoLands Challenge.

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