Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Wednesday Science Limerick: Buckminsterfullerene

A bucky-ball has to be seen
It's called buckminster (dash) fullerene
It is like a football
It's a cage, that's not all
It traps atoms in ways unforeseen.

When I studied Chemistry at university there were three known forms of the element carbon, diamond, graphite and amorphous carbon (such as charcoal). I became very interested in carbon atoms which contained unsaturated hexagonal rings and ended up doing a Ph.D. linking theoretical calculations with their measured properties. It was over 25 years later, in 1985, that the first "Buckyballs" were discovered.
Buckmasterfullerene (chemical formula C60) consists of a sphere of 60 carbon atoms arranged as 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons forming a truncated icosahedron. The pattern is same as the leather faces on an association football and the name was given because an architect Buckminster Fuller designed buildings with spherical domes called geodesic domes. It opens up an exciting new field of carbon chemistry including materials with very interesting properties. Metal atoms can be trapped inside the cage, and bucky-balls laced with potassium are superconductors up to a temperature of 18 degrees Kelvin. In addition the discovery has lead to many other fullerenes being discovered - the most important being nanotubes which can be likened to sheets of graphite being rolled up into a tube.

Note about the limerick below the fold.  

The word buckmasterfullerene was mentioned elsewhere in discussing limericks and I decided to try and write one with it forming the rhyme. However I had problems because the stresses are in the wrong place. However I felt that adding a hyphen was not unreasonable as the molecule was named after Buckminster Fuller and the Wikipedia page spells bucky-ball with and without a hyphen. However a later search online found one other limerick, by Mike Scholtes, in The Omnificicent English Dictionary in Limerick Form, using the word buckminsterfullerene - getting it in the right place in the line to get the rhythm of the line right.

In a buckminsterfullerene ball
You can find sixty carbons in all.
A buckyball locker
For nanotech soccer
Might strike us as shockingly small.

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