How Does Buckminsterfullerene Allow for Greater Mechanical Strength in Different Objects?

Buckminsterfullerene was first discovered in 1985 by a research team from Rice and Sussex University and was named after the American architect, Buckminster Fuller due its structural similarity to a geodesic dome he designed.

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Buckminsterfullerine is an allotrope and type of fullerene with C60. With a structure resembling a soccer ball, it is sometimes colloquially referred to as “buckyballs”. The carbon atoms are arranged into 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons. This type of molecule is known as an icosahedron since it has 60 vertices and 62 faces.

The van der Waals diameter of the C60 molecule is approximately 1.01 nanometers with an average bond length of 0.14 nanometers. Carbon atoms in the fullerene are bonded covalently to 3 others. Buckminsterfullerine is simple to synthesize and has become a popular subject of materials research with a particular interest in its future applications.

Buckminsterfullerene have many beneficial material properties that make it appealing to numerous industries.  The molecules are not superaromatic due to the fact that the electrons are not delocalized, despite its carbon nature. More importantly, buckminsterfullerene has a very high tensile strength and ductility. Research has shown hat they are able to maintain their original shape after being exposed to a 3000 atmospheric pressure. Because of these material properties, there have been many proposed applications of the molecule. These have been discussed further in the section below.

Applications of Buckminsterfullerine

The most extensive used of the C20 carbon molecule has been in the biomedical field. Most notably for their use as potential antiviral agents and their ability to suppress the HIV virus, an immunodeficiency virus that can lead to AIDS. They have also been included in the suppression of the hepatitis C virus as well as the vesicular stomatitis virus. It should also be noted that drug and gene delivery is also a medical sector in which buckyballs and buckytubes have been heavily researched.

Due to their ability to decrease the transmittance of light, buckminsterfullerenes are able to be used as optical limiters. This means that they are particularly useful for the development of protective eyewear and optical sensors.

Material research has concluded that buckyballs and other fullerenes, will be the future of developing lightweight metals while achieving a greater tensile strength. According to researchers, this is due to the extremely small size of the carbon molecule and the comparably high reactivity due to the sp2 hybridization which allows for a dispersion strengthening metal matrix of fullerenes and metals. In a recent study, material developers were able to increase the hardness of the lightweight Ti-24.4AI-17N alloy by approximately 30% by adding fullerenes.

Furthermore, Argonne National Laboratories and MER Corporation have been able to demonstrate turning fullerene molecules into diamond molecules with a simple rearrangement of the atoms. This proves the structural similarity of fullerenes and diamonds paving the way for an alternative substitute for diamond films needed in electronic devices.

In 2006, an Israeli company tested one of the most shock-resistant materials currently in use, the material is approximately 5 times stronger than conventional steel and at least twice as strong as the impact-resistant material in use at the time. The material, which was developed by ApNano and was tested by Prof. Yan Qiu Zhu of the School of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Nottingham. The materials contained fullerene and was subjected to steel projectiles travelling at 1.5km/second and was able to withstand shock pressures of approximately 250 tons per square centimeter. The material can be used to protective gear for soldiers as it is shock resistant and lightweight.

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