GEOFF TOMPKINSON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GEOFF TOMPKINSON / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Manufacturing Buckyballs. A high- power pulsed laser is aimed at a carbon target within a vacuum chamber (background). The vapourised refractory particles produced by the laser are then drawn away by a helium plasma to a mass spectrometer for analysis. It was during this type of experiment that a 60-atom molecule of carbon was first discovered. In 1985, Kroto et al suggested a structure for the molecule, an icosahedron with hexagonal and pentagonal faces. This was named Buckminsterfullerene, and nicknamed 'Buckyball', after the architect whose geodesic domes the structure resembles. Simpler electric arc procedures are now used to make C60.
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