Buckyball Comes of Age

Buckyball Comes of Age

The buckyball is a nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter, in diameter and consists of 60 carbon atom cages that form the shape of a soccer ball.

The buckyball was named after R. Buckminster Fuller because of its resemblance to the late architect's geodesic domes. The buckyball is a nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter, in diameter and consists of 60 carbon atom cages that form the shape of a soccer ball. The unique form of carbon was noted for its strength but did not find use in many applications until it led the way to the creation of nanotubes years later, says Wade Adams, director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. Nanotubes consist of elongated versions of carbon molecules called fullerenes that can conduct heat and electricity better than any other known material.

Nanotubes have been used in various applications over the years, including reinforcements for composite materials. In January Bayer Material Science opened a pilot facility in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany capable of producing 200 metric tons of carbon nanotubes annually. The company says potential applications include use as a strengthening agent for polymer matrices and metal systems or in coatings for ships because of its abrasion-resistant properties.

The carbon nanotube, pictured in the above models, is an extension of buckyball research.
Bayer will market the product as Baytubes. Upon announcing the new plant, the company noted that forecasts show nanotubes will grow at an annual rate of 25%, and within 10 years the market is expected to be worth $ 2 billion," says Dr. Joachim Wolff, a member of Bayer Material Science's executive committee and head of the coatings, adhesives, specialties segment. Bayer expects nanotechnology will create 100,000 jobs in German industry in the medium term.

See Also:
• Nanotechnology: Beyond the Hype

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