Robert F. Curl Jr.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1996
Born: 23 August 1933, Alice, TX, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discovery of fullerenes."
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 Robert Curl, Richard Smalley 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.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.