Richard E. Smalley
Born: 6 June 1943, Akron, OH, USA
Died: 28 October 2005, Houston, TX, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discovery of fullerenes"
Field: organic chemistry, structural chemistry
Prize share: 1/3
Carbon is an element that can assume a number of different forms. In nature, for example, graphite and diamonds appear. In 1985 Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, and Harold Kroto irradiated a surface of graphite with laser pulses so that carbon gas was formed. When the carbon gas condensed, previously unknown structures with 60 and 70 carbon atoms were formed. The most common structure had 60 carbon atoms arranged in a sphere with five and six edges. The structures were called fullerenes in honor of architect Buckminster Fuller, who worked with this geometric shape.