Carbon balls with a metal core
Curl, Kroto and Smalley realised early that it should be possible to enclose metal atoms in the fullerene cages and thereby completely change the properties of the metal. The first successful experiment was done with the rare earth metal lanthanum.
Fullerenes in quantities
Five years after the discovery
of the fullerenes, the astrophysicists D. R. Huffmann
and W. Krätschmer and their co-workers managed
to produce fullerenes in larger quantities.
C60 can easily
accept electrons and form negative ions. With alkali
metals (e.g. potassium), C60 forms a new
superconducting crystalline material built from a
C60 ion with three charges and three
positive potassium ions
(K3C60). The material becomes
superconducting at 19 K. Because C60 can
accept and then donate electrons reversibly, the
fullerenes may well become catalysts in chemical
processes and replace expensive and poisonous
During the six years since the
fullerenes became readily available to scientists,
more than a thousand new compounds have been
synthesised and their chemical, optical, electrical,
mechanical or biological properties have been tested.
The production of fullerenes is still very expensive,
which limits their use.