In 1996 Sir Harry Kroto received Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes and commented "As I long suspected, fullerenes have existed since time immemorial in the dark recesses of our galaxy."
In 2010, fullerenes were detected in a cloud of cosmic dust surrounding a distant star 6500 light years away with help of NASA's Spitzer infrared telescope.
Bucky balls derived their name after Richard Buckminster Fuller.
Types of Fullerenes
Uses of Fullerenes
Right Stuff For Space Ships
Imagine you have a substance which has hundred times strong than steel, yet constitutes just one-sixth of its weight which generates and stores electricity! Each pound trimmed from a spaceship is each pound less that will not have to be propulsed from spacecraft. This in turn reduces weight and thus its cost. This material is nothing but our very own buckyball nanotubes!
Materials that make up a space ship could be embedded with nanometre sensors that constantly monitor pressures exerted on its material. Therefore, if some part of spaceships starts to fail, the information is passed to central computer before tragedy strikes.
The spaceship is always under a threat of colliding with asteroid or comets. However, a spaceship made up of fullerenes is self healing and keeps the cabin air tight.
Treatment of Cancer
Fullerenes can be chemically altered to incorporate functional groups like L-phenylalanine, folic acid, and L-arginine. The purpose for this is to increase their solubility. . Cancer cells easily take up these molecules at an increased rate because of an upregulation of transporters in the cancer cells. Once inside the cells, on exposure to light radiation they generate oxygen free radicals which triggers apoptosis in cancer cells. This leads decrease in size of tumor. Once the radiation therapy is completed, fullerenes may reabsorb free radicals to prevent damage to surrounding tissues.
Fullerenes inhibit HIV protease enzyme in viruses. HIV protease enzyme is responsible for cleaving the viral DNA into head, body and enzymes once the virus has replicated in the host.
Fullerene in Gene and Drug Delivery
Fullerenes belong to the class of inorganic nano-particles. The fullerene core is hydrophobic, while the functional groups like amino acid attached to the core are hydrophilic and thus the molecule becomes hydrophilic and is capable of carrying drugs and genes for the cellular delivery.