In September 1985, a new kind of carbon family was discovered by three innovative chemists, Robert F. Curl, Sir Harold W. Kroto, and Richard E. Smalley, who were working together at Rice University in Houston, Texas to perform a set of experiments that were integral discoveries in Nanoscience. The discovery made by these three men was of a spherical, 60 carbon containing molecule very different from graphite and diamond and was officially named Buckminster fullerene (in honour of R. Buckminster Fuller who designed and built the first geodesic dome). A Buckminster fullerene, given the shorter nickname of buckyball, has several sides or faces that are either in the shape of a five-sided figure known as a pentagon or a six-sided figure known as a hexagon.
Buckyballs can come in many different sizes, the smallest buckyball structure, which you will make, consists of 20 carbon atoms bonded together in pentagonal units. Several potential applications for buckyballs are currently being investigated, including their potential use as lubricants and even superconductors. Larger buckyballs might be used as containers holding different atoms and molecules; this has the possibility of being used in medicine to deliver a pharmaceutical to a specific location in the body
In this activity you will be putting PHiZZ units, invented by Tom Hull who is known for his expertise in the mathematics of paper folding, together to make a 20 carbon containing buckyball. PHiZZ is short for Pentagon-Hexagon Zig-Zag, when you make one unit you will notice the ziggy-zaggy shape that when linked together can make a pentagon or hexagon face. While this activity is an exercise in patience, the end product is really cool.
Did you know that fullerenes are very important to nanoscience as next generation materials and electronics will incorporate them to utilize their impressive strength and unique properties? You can learn more about fullerenes and nanoscience by playing the nano games and trying the interactive fact sheet available at wonderville.ca.