1996 Chemistry Nobel Prize

Robert F. Curl, Harold W. Kroto, Richard E. Smalley


What Did They Do?

  • These scientists discovered the existence of small carbon balls called fullerenes.
  • Before these fullerenes were discovered (especially C60), no carbon arrangement was found that was so symmetrical.
  • These fullerenes closely resemble the shape of a buckyball, or soccer ball.
  • They are formed in a lab, when carbon becomes a vapor, mixes with helium, and then is cooled to a temperature of absolute zero.
  • The experiment to discover these fullerenes took place over 11 days in 1985 at Rice University.

Why Did They Win?

  • The biggest reason these chemists won was the fact that they discovered a perfectly symmetrical molecule, which could be extensively researched for its properties.
  • Applications include being used in technology devices, pharmaceuticals, energy, and even HIV drugs and moisturizers.
  • Helped solve the mystery of how large quantities of carbon atoms were arranged, as well as dismissing previous misconceptions.
  • Overall, this discovery challenged previous knowledge by changing many scientists' viewpoints on how carbon molecules and others are formed.
  • In the future, it will also be possible to produce extremely conductive salts of C60, as well as solve the problem of how carbon forms around the globe.
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An Interesting Interview with Robert Curl and Harold Kroto

Curl and Kroto: A look back at the discovery of C60 and the Nobel Prize

Works Cited