Robert F. Curl Jr., American chemist

Robert F. Curl Jr., American chemist

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Credit: VOLKER STEGER/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Robert F. Curl Jr.(born 1933), American chemist. Curl is professor of chemistry at Rice University, Houston, USA. In 1996 he was awarded, along with Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes (Buckyballs). Using a laser-supersonic cluster beam apparatus, they were able to vaporise carbon into a plasma of atoms which formed C60 clusters. In 1985 they described the molecular structure of this new form of carbon as a polyhedron cage with 20 hexagonal surfaces and 12 pentagonal surfaces, the same pattern as that of a football. The scientists named the new form of carbon after the architect R. Buckminster Fuller, who designed the geodetic dome for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. Curl is seen here holding a sheet of notes showing how fullerenes were discovered.

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