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Most people are familiar with the terms graphite and diamond. These are forms of elemental carbon. A buckyball is a new form of elemental carbon. The third form. In this new form, the carbon atoms are arranged in small clusters of atoms, instead of in sheets with the bonds forming between the atoms, sort of like chicken wire. This new form of carbon was discovered in 1985.

The clusters of atoms are arranged in such a way that they are more stable than other clusters than scientists are familiar with. It is believed that the stability stems from the arrangement of the atom. They appear to have a structure of interlocking hexagons and pentagons. They look almost like a soccer ball. The famous architect-engineer R. Buckminster Fuller had designed geodesic domes, hence, when scientists were trying to come up with a name for the new form of carbon they came up with the name, Buckminster Fullerenes. Buckyballs for short.

What Are They Used For?
Because the buckyball's sphere is hollow, other atoms can be trapped within it. The have heat-resistance and electrical conductivity. Their applications appear to be endless. Current research indicates that some of their projected applications are:

* Polymers/reinforcements
* Compounds
* High quality diamond films for electronic chips and other devices.
* Insulator
* Batteries and fuel cell electrodes
* Strengthening and hardening of metals
* Sensor applications
* Surface hardening coatings
* Catalysts
* Biological/pharmaceuticals
* Copier toner
* Organic chemistry building blocks
* Chemical reagents

Buckyballs are still very much of interest to scientists and are currently being researched in many government-sponsored programs. The product needs to be in a pure form and research is not cheap. Due to the high cost of producing buckyballs, this does become an impediment in the research arena. Small quantities of buckyballs are easy to produce, but have limitations which result in low volume production and therefore higher prices for the buckyballs. The cost of refining buckyballs into purified products also contributes to the high production cost. Lack of economical large scale production and refinement inhibits their application.

If you are interested in learning more about buckyballs and other research in this area, don't stop here. Visit your local library or University to get more information on this new form of carbon. Or, visit the World Wide Web and use the key word Buckyballs. Good luck!