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Knowledge At MET

Knowledge At MET

Fullerenes-Bucky Balls

A fullerene is a molecule which is composed only of carbon atoms. Fullerene is a hollow sphere, ellipsoid or tube. Spherical fullerenes are also called buckyballs. Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes . Nature produces fullerenes by lightning discharges and thus very small quantities of fullerenes of C60, C70, C76, C82 and C84 molecules occur in nature.

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

  • Buckyball clusters: smallest fullerene contains C20 and the most common is C60 .
  • Nanotubes: they are stereochemically hollow tube with vast applications in electronics
  • Polymers: polymers are formed under high-pressure high-temperature
  • Nano "onions": they are spherical particles which have multiple carbon layers surrounding a buckyball core and used as
  • Linked "ball-and-chain" dimers: two fullerenes linked by a carbon chain.
  • Boron buckyball: A type of buckyball which uses boron atoms, instead of the usual carbon, was predicted and described in The B80 structure, with each atom forming 5 or 6 bonds, is predicted to be more stable than the C60 buckyball.B-80 is actually more like the original geodesic dome structure popularized by Buckminster Fuller, which uses triangles rather than hexagons.

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.

Antiviral Activity

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.

Tags: MET Institute of Pharmacy