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Any of a class of all-carbon molecules whose atoms are arranged in closed hollow shells. Allotropes of carbon first identified in 1985, they have varying (but even) numbers of atoms bonded into structures having 12 pentagonal and 2 or more hexagonal faces. Fullerenes comprising dozens to hundreds of carbon atoms have been prepared. The best known and most stable fullerene, buckminsterfullerene (C, nicknamed buckyball), has 60 carbon atoms arranged in a pattern like that on a standard soccer ball. It is named for R. Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic dome designs its structure resembles. Chemists have made fullerene derivatives (e.g., with attached hydrogen or halogen atoms or organic groups; seefunctional group) and have prepared doped fullerenes (e.g., with alkali metal atoms such as potassium; seedopant) that show superconductivity at relatively high temperatures. One or more metal or noble-gas atoms can be trapped in the molecule's hollow interior, resulting in unique complexes called endohedral fullerenes.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on fullerene, visit Britannica.com.