Fullerenes

Graphene

Graphene is another form of the element carbon. Its structure resembles a single layer of graphite. Graphene has a very high melting point and is very strong because of its large regular arrangement of carbon atoms joined by covalent bonds. Like graphite, graphene conducts electricity well because it has delocalised electrons that are free to move through its structure.

Dr Mark Miodownik talks to Professor Andre Geim at the University of Manchester about his work on graphene

Fullerenes

Fullerenes are forms of carbon, and include nanotubes and buckyballs.

Nanotubes

A nanotube resembles a layer of graphene, rolled into a tube shape. Nanotubes have high tensile strength, so they are strong in tension and resist being stretched. Like graphene, nanotubes are strong, and they conduct electricity because they have delocalised electrons.

Covalent structure of a nanotubeNanotubes can be several millimetres long but only a few nanometres wide

Buckyballs

Buckyballs are spheres or squashed spheres of carbon atoms. They are made up of large molecules but do not have a giant covalent structure. Weak intermolecular forces exist between individual buckyballs. Little energy is needed to overcome these forces, so substances consisting of buckyballs are slippery and have lower melting points than graphite or diamond.

Covalent structure of buckminsterfullereneBuckminsterfullerene, C60, has sixty carbon atoms joined by covalent bonds