Buckyball: Tiny Carbon Soccer Balls

Buckyball: Tiny Carbon Soccer Balls

We tend to talk a lot about carbon on this
show, because it’s difficult to avoid when you’re talking about science, or the Earth,
or eating, or breathing, or existing in the universe. Carbon is a big deal – it’s all around us.
We are carbon-based lifeforms so you’d think we’d have been familiar with all the different
forms, or allotropes, of carbon a long, long time ago. Well, remarkably recently, in 1985, a team
of scientists headed by Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, and Richard Smalley discovered a
new form of carbon. It was a molecule in the shape of a soccer
ball — or for the rest of the world, a football — and they called it buckminsterfullerene,
after Richard Buckminster Fuller, the architect who popularized the geodesic dome. It’s also called a buckyball, for short.
Chemists call it C60. Everybody was pretty surprised when the buckyball
made its debut, because in the world of organic chemistry, finding out carbon had an allotrope
nobody knew about was a lot like finding out your dad has a blackbelt in karate and you
just didn’t know. It’s worth mentioning that these guys also
got a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for figuring out how to make a carbon into a soccer ball. So, how did they do it, and why is it so important? In the 1980’s, Kroto was investigating some
long, flexible chains of carbon that form clouds in interstellar space, and wanted to
look at some of them close up. The problem was, they were in space and he
was on Earth, so he needed to figure out how to make them himself. Well, he discovered that Smalley had access
to a super powerful laser. Kroto thought maybe if he shot this laser at some graphite — layers
of carbon arranged into flat sheets — he could completely break its carbon-carbon bonds. Then, the carbon atoms might reorganize themselves
into the molecules he wanted to study. And, Lo and behold! When Smalley and Kroto
tried it, they did find those long carbon chains that they wanted to make — but they
also found some of the carbon atoms had bonded into this other weird thing. It was an extremely stable carbon molecule
with 720 protons, which meant it had to be made of exactly 60 carbon atoms, with 12 protons
each. And it didn’t react easily with other molecules,
which is unusual because a single carbon atom has whopping four spare electrons that it
can use to make bonds with other atoms. The fact that this new molecule wasn’t very
reactive meant that each of these 60 carbon atoms had to have three of their electrons
occupied with other carbons, and only one electron free. They realized that, for this to be the case,
the atoms had to be arranged in some kind of spherical carbon cage — kind of like the
geodesic dome that Buckminster Fuller had devised back in 1954. And just like in a European regulation football,
the bonds had to be a mixture of 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons in order for the cage to close
completely. They’d discovered a brand new form of carbon
— fullerenes, or spherical carbon molecules. And I say fullerenes, plural, because while
C60 and a little C70 were the most common products of that first experiment, other carbon
clusters have since been hypothesized — and later proven to exist — like C76, C78, C84,
and so on. Studying fullerenes for the last 30 years
has led us to realize buckyballs are all around us. They occur naturally, but sparingly, here
on Earth — you can find them in soot from a candle or around a place where lightning
has struck. We’ve also figured out that clouds of buckminsterfullerene
are pretty common in space–and solid C60 has recently been discovered around a pair
of stars 6,500 light years from earth. But here on this planet, it’s taken a while
to get a bead on exactly what C60 can do for us, especially because it’s very expensive
to make even a little bit. A member of the British House of Lords commented
shortly after its discovery, “it does nothing in particular and does it very well.” Which isn’t totally fair. Because it does
have its uses. That free electron in each of the carbon atoms
gives C60 a lot of flexibility and a high electrical conductivity. And even though it’s really soft under normal
conditions, C60 can be compressed between two diamond tips at 320,000 times atmospheric
pressure to create a substance so hard it can dent diamond — the hardest substance
on Earth. And according to new research published in
March, buckyballs might soon find widespread use — in medicine. When a molecule of buckyball is attached to
12 molecules of nitrous oxide, the tiny structure can explode in a controlled reaction. Researchers call them buckybombs, and eventually,
they could be used in individual cells, to deliver medication, or to destroy a tumor. So we may be hearing a lot more about the
buckyball in the near future. Thank you for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you by our President of Space, SR Foxley, and also our other patrons
on Patreon. If you want to help support us and get access to cool stuff like behind the
scenes pictures or blooper reels, or become the latest President of Space, you can go
to patreon.com/scishow. And also, if you want to keep getting smarter with us, you can go
to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe.

99 thoughts on “Buckyball: Tiny Carbon Soccer Balls

  1. Well that's comforting to hear… Buckybombs and medicine in the same sentence. ssssSCIENCE!!

  2. We learned that buckyballs existed in high school chemistry but we never actually learned anything about them.

  3. 0:39 ok next vid should be about the sci behind: why a 6th or less of planet earth population (north america) insists on naming/calling a sport "football" when clearly only 10% of the time is the ball actually in contact with the foot. and the rest of the world reasonably calls a sport where 95% of the time the ball is being kicked by the foot.. football!  there has to be a reasonable explanation for that i feel.

    after all is said and done lets kill cancer with footballs or soccer balls which ever works im all in

  4. Explain me exactly how is it more logical the football to be named soccer ball in your country, when what you call football should be called handegg.

  5. Well that's interesting.  I wonder if the hyper-compressed aggregate diamond version is still an excellent conductor. Maybe some day our computer chips will be made of gems.

  6. It is really cool to hear about "Bucky." I actually live in Carbondale, IL, attending SIU, and he was from around here (or at least he worked at the university at some point) and I live right around the corner from the "Bucky Dome" which is a house with that geodesic dome pattern. Also, "Fat Patties" has a bucky dome burger… It is delicious, and artery ruining.

  7. Great video! Oddly enough, I just heard about c60 in the Al Jazeera dark side of sports documentary. C60 was mentioned as being used "off the record" in the military. It seemed he was alluding to it as a supplement and not a "buckybomb" but they didn't elaborate.

  8. Maybe if I shoot a laser at some carbon molecules, they'll break apart and turn into exactly into what I want! It'll totally work!

  9. If you break the law, you go to jail. Break the laws of a religion, you've doomed yourself. Break the laws of physics, you get a Nobel prize and your parents disregard the fact that they disowned you.

  10. i'm imagining an organism that can detect canser on itself and destroy it with specialised cells that self destruck with buckyexplotions; only problem would be if all of the "buckycells" were to develope cancer then it would be doomed unless the cells were created by other cells (wich would be a very good way of doing this, but those cells could get cancer themselves), though it would be quite difficult for all of this cells to develope cancer..

  11. Imagine going to the doctor's to get your results and hearing, "We're gonna have to explode a bomb inside of you."

  12. Now Bucky has a much better job than just killing people and took my Stark out of his lovely Steve :<

  13. "I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?"
    "The good news."
    "Well, I can't explain the good news before saying the bad news, so here goes. You have a tumor, but it is treatable."
    "How will you treat it? Chemo? Surgery?"
    "No. We're going to blow it up."

  14. wait wasn't carbone the stuff that had 6 protons and 6 neutrons in its nucleus?
    It was the 666 atom and 666 is kinda meaning the David's star and that means like in heaven so on earth, so Carbon is the real godparticle 😀

  15. Carbon can be ugly(charcoal) or shiny(diamond).Weak(charcoal) or strong(carbon nanotubes).Nothing against coal.They do give off very useful heat for everyone to share.

  16. I'm not sure if it was known at the time of this video, but there is another interesting property of fullerenes : they can form compounds with helium. Really all that they do is entrap it, but if I remember correctly, it still changes the chemical properties.

  17. Graphite is like some looser drunk uncle of organic molecules that somehow fathered Einstein and Hawking at the same time.

  18. Wtf! I was actually looking for the crash course! N just randomly hit this video! It's the same crash course guy! XD

  19. That member of the British house of lords must have felt pretty stupid when they discovered that C60 nearly doubles the lifespan of rats.

  20. This is fake news. No mention of the explosive discovery that c60 may be an extremely effective life extension substance.

    I just noticed how old this video is. In fairness the life extension quality's weren't as commonly known then.

  21. Hmm how can we cure cancer… OHH OHH OHH WE CAN BLOW IT UP… This doesn't sound like a great idea sounds more like a way to spread the tumor and make a movie concept. A group of tiny fellows going around some dude delivering Michael bay justice wherever they went

  22. Gilbert and Sullivan quote at 3'29", from their comic opera "Iolanthe", Act 2, song "When all night long" sung by Private Willis. Gilbert was referring to the British Parliament, btw.

  23. Do another video on graphene! We figured out how to mass produce it and man oh man does it have some awesome abilities!!!

  24. C60PurplePower.com
    Been using for a couple years. It's the most powerful antioxidant on the planet.
    No oxidation no aging.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *