STEM Sims Logo


Buckyball Thumbnail
A certain class of organic compounds, called fullerenes, exhibit remarkable structures that result in a variety of unusual chemical and physical properties. Scientists are investigating the use of these compounds as fuel additives that help derive more energy from gasoline, and as vehicles that deliver cancer fighting drugs to cells inside the human body. Get rolling and begin your study of the famous fullerene called buckyball.

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Buckyball Brochure

Buckyball Brochure

What is organic chemistry?

Organic compounds all contain the element carbon within the substance. A variety of other elements may be combined with carbon in an organic compound. Inorganic compounds do not usually contain any carbon atoms; however a few compounds like carbonates and carbides do contain carbon, yet are considered to be inorganic.

How are organic compounds represented?

Bonds between the atoms that make up an organic compound are represented a number of ways. One way is to place two dots between adjoining atoms. These two dots indicate a chemical bond, and specifically, a single bond between the atoms that are sharing two electrons (hence the two dots). A structural drawing represents the bonds between atoms by using a single line or stick between the atoms. So a bond between carbon (symbolized as C) and hydrogen (symbolized as H) would be shown as C-H.

What are some common structures of organic compounds?

Organic compounds come in many shapes and arrangements. Some compounds exist as long chains, while other may have a main chain with many branches emerging from the main group. Some longer chains may "catch their own tail" and form closed shapes, such as pentagons and hexagons. Other, even more elaborate structures are commonly found in many organic compounds.

What are fullerenes?

Fullerenes are a special group of organic molecules that generally consist only of carbon. An interesting characteristic of this group is their shapes, which can range from tubes, to elliptical, to spheres. The C60 molecule, called a buckyball, was the first fullerene to be discovered and has a shape much like a soccer ball.

What are some properties of C60?

C60 has a number of unique properties that mainly arise from the covalent bonds that hold the molecule together. Some of these properties include: 1) soft and slippery texture, 2) very brittle, 3) a poor conductor of heat and electricity, 4) insoluble in water, and 5) a relatively low melting point.

How does a molecule's structure affect solubility?

Since the chemical bonds that make up C60 are generally non-polar, the C60 molecule is not expected to dissolve in a polar solvent such as water. C60 is much more soluble in a non-polar solvent such as benzene or carbon tetrachloride.

How is a substance's hardness measured?

A common scale used to rate the relative hardness of materials is called the Mohs scale. The scale rates the ability of one material to scratch another material. The harder the material, the greater its scratching ability and the higher its numerical rating. The Mohs scale rates materials from 1 (very soft) to 10 (very hard).

What is conductivity?

Conductivity is the ability of a material to allow either heat or electrical charge to pass through the material. A good conductor allows much heat and electricity to pass through it, while an insulator resists the movement of heat and electricity through the material. Most good conductors are metallic in nature, while many insulators have covalent bonding without any free electrons to carry the heat or charge.

What are the wavelengths of visible light?

Color Wavelength (nanometers)
Violet 400
Indigo 425
Blue 470
Aqua 500
Green 550
Yellow 600
Orange 630
Red 665
Dark Red 700

What is an optical absorption spectrum?

A material's optical absorption spectrum measures the light interacting with a material. Light hits the material, is absorbed, and electrons are excited. The amount and type of light absorbed by the material is its absorption spectrum.
You need to log in to access this simulation.