Synthesis of macroscopic quantities of Buckminsterfullerene (C60) using a carbon arc, showing gloved hands holding the electrode clamps. In C60, the carbon atoms are arranged in 5- & 6- membered rings that form a hollow sphere in the form of a panelled soccer ball. The electric arc causes the liberation of carbon atoms, which subsequently coalesce into sheets. In a simple bell jar evaporator, an atmosphere of inert helium holds these sheets near the arc for sufficient time to allow the sheets to close in on themselves to form fullerenes. Each member of the fullerene family has an even number of carbon atoms, up to a giant C960 fullerene.
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