What are Fullerenes?

Natural carbon can exist in several forms. Most people know about graphite and diamond, but there is a third type – fullerenes. Sometimes these are mistakenly called a ‘new form of carbon’; in fact, fullerenes have been found to exist in interstellar dust as well as in geological formations on Earth. They are only new to us. Fullerenes are large carbon cage molecules. By far the most common one is C60 also called a ‘buckyball’-but some other relatively common ones are C70’ C76’ and C84.

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Graphite and Diamond, the two other well-known allotropes of carbon, show extended solid state structures. In contrast, the fullerenes are spherical molecules that are attached to each other in the solid state. Due to the weak intermolecular bonding, the black power of fullerenes is soluble in variety of organic solvents. For example, C60, the most famous fullerene, shows a deeply violet colored solution in toluene or benzene.

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