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Carbon Molecules and Fullerenes

Fullerene Crystals
Structure of C<sub>60</sub>

Interstellar dust determines to a large extent the chemistry of the interstellar medium and plays a major role in the formation of stars and planets. Carbon, as the most abundant condensable element in space certainly contributes to the chemical composition of interstellar dust. During the 1980-90 years, the study of nm sized carbon particles was in focus of our research. When we produced such particles, we detected in our samples besides graphitic soot an additional component which turned out to be C60. Based on this discovery, we for the first time devised a method of producing this fascinating soccer ball shaped C60 molecule in substance and could study its molecular and bulk properties. C60 is the most abundant species in the class of closed cage, ball shaped pure carbon molecules called ”fullerenes”, the discoverers of which were awarded with the Nobel Price in chemistry in 1996.

It turns out that both, the discovery as well as the technique for the synthesis of fullerenes is an outcome of fundamental astrophysical research.


Max-Planck Institute
for Nuclear Physics

Carbon Molecules and Fullerenes
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Krätschmer

Tel.: +496221516481
Fax: +496221516549