Abstract: During experiments aimed at understanding the mechanisms by which long-chain carbon molecules are formed in interstellar space and circumstellar shells1, graphite has been vaporized by laser irradiation, producing a remarkably stable cluster consisting of 60 carbon atoms. Concerning the question of what kind of 60-carbon atom structure might give rise to a superstable species, we suggest a truncated icosahedron, a polygon with 60 vertices and 32 faces, 12 of which are pentagonal and 20 hexagonal. This object is commonly encountered as the football shown in Fig. 1. The C60 molecule which results when a carbon atom is placed at each vertex of this structure has all valences satisfied by two single bonds and one double bond, has many resonance structures, and appears to be aromatic. Before 1985, it was generally accepted that elemental carbon exists in two forms, or allotropes: diamond and graphite. Then, Kroto et al. identified the signature of a new, stable form of carbon that consisted of clusters of 60 atoms. They called this third allotrope of carbon 'buckminsterfullerene', and proposed that it consisted of polyhedral molecules in which the atoms were arrayed at the vertices of a truncated icosahedron. In 1990, the synthesis of large quantities of C60 [see Nature 347, 354–358 (1990)] confirmed this hypothesis.
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