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Understand Fullerenes

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

In nature, carbon normally forms diamond or graphite. In the last few years, scientists have made other forms of carbon, with incredibly useful properties. One of them was discovered with a lump of graphite and a roll of sticky tape...

Remember that the graphite structure has sheets of carbon atoms, covalently bonded within the layers.

By sticking some sticky tape onto a lump of graphite and then peeling it off, scientists were able to get a thin layer of graphite. By doing this again and again, the layer of graphite got thinner and thinner. Eventually, Andrei Geim and Kostya Novoselov were able to get a layer of carbon atoms which was only one atom thick. This makes a new material, with different properties, called graphene. The graphene structure looks like this:

Scientists are still working out the properties of graphene and how to use it to make useful things. We know that graphene is extremely strong, that it stretches well and can conduct electricity. Another idea is to use the small gaps in the structure to make a filter to clean dirty water.

Graphene is flat, but there are other carbon structures which are three dimensional. Fullerenes are hollow shapes made of carbon atoms.

This picture shows buckmeisterfullerene. It's a ball shape, with a mixture of hexagonal and pentagonal rings. In total, there are 60 carbon atoms in the molecule. The round shape means that it can roll, so it's a good lubricant.

Other types of fullerene have cylindrical shapes; these are also called nanotubes.

Nanotubes are very strong, because they are based on C-C covalent bonds. They also conduct electricity and heat well. To understand why, remember that each carbon atom normally makes four bonds to other carbon atoms (look back at the structure of diamond). In the structures of graphene and fullerenes, there are only three fixed C-C bond. The spare electron is more mobile, and is responsible for conduction.

Graphene and fullerenes are also useful as catalysts; they make other chemical reactions go faster. Firstly, they have a very large surface area, which makes chemical processes speed up. Also, the spare electrons in these structures make some reactions happen more easily.

A final use being explored for these materials is to deliver drugs safely to specific parts of the body. The idea is to use the fullerene as a cage, with the drug on the inside. The drug can travel to the part of the body needing treatment locked away in the cage. Then, once the drug has reached the appropriate part of the body, the fullerene will break up, releasing the drug where it is needed without side effects on other parts of the body.

Carbon is the basis for very many chemicals in nature and technology; the simple bonding patterns can be joined together in so many different ways. So many that we haven't discovered all the possibilities, or how we can use them all.

Which element are gaphene and fullerenes made of?

What is the name of this structure?

What is the chemical formula for a buckmeisterfullerene molecule?

C

C6

C60

Which of these words and phrases describes a nanotube? Tick all the words which are true.

cylinder

pure carbon

flat

ionic bonding

Match up these structures with their descriptions.

Column A

Column B

diamond
cylinder made of carbon atoms
graphene
spherical shell made of carbon atoms
buckmeisterfullerene
sheet of carbon atoms
nanotube
three dimensional network of carbon atoms

Which forms of carbon would be useful to make cages for drug delivery? Tick all the possibilities.

buckmeisterfullerene

diamond

nanotubes

graphene

Tick the correct sentences about nanotubes.

Nanotubes are made of pure carbon.

Each carbon atom is bonded to four neighbours.

Nanotubes are very strong.

Nanotubes conduct electricity well.

What does a catalyst do?

Makes a chemical reaction run faster.

Makes a chemical reaction run slower.

Increases the amount of product produced.

Which form of carbon was discovered with the help of sticky tape?

Pick half sentences to describe and explain the strength of graphene.

  • Question 1

Which element are gaphene and fullerenes made of?

CORRECT ANSWER
carbon
C
EDDIE SAYS
Both these structures are based on networks of carbon atoms; carbon is unusual in how many different ways there are of joining carbon atoms together.
  • Question 2

What is the name of this structure?

CORRECT ANSWER
graphene
EDDIE SAYS
The single sheet structure of carbon is called graphene. Remember that it's a single layer of the graphite structure.
  • Question 3

What is the chemical formula for a buckmeisterfullerene molecule?

CORRECT ANSWER
C60
EDDIE SAYS
There are sixty carbon atoms in a buckmeisterfullerene molecule; we write that as C60.
  • Question 4

Which of these words and phrases describes a nanotube? Tick all the words which are true.

CORRECT ANSWER
cylinder
pure carbon
EDDIE SAYS
Nanotubes are made of carbon, with covalent bonds between the atoms. The tubes are effectively sheets of graphene rolled round to make a cylinder.
  • Question 5

Match up these structures with their descriptions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

diamond
three dimensional network of carb...
graphene
sheet of carbon atoms
buckmeisterfullerene
spherical shell made of carbon at...
nanotube
cylinder made of carbon atoms
EDDIE SAYS
Have a look at the diagrams if you are unsure of the names of each one.
  • Question 6

Which forms of carbon would be useful to make cages for drug delivery? Tick all the possibilities.

CORRECT ANSWER
buckmeisterfullerene
nanotubes
EDDIE SAYS
You need a cage with space in the middle- that rules out graphene. Diamond would be too strong- in fullerenes and nanotubes, the shell of the cage is only one atom thick.
  • Question 7

Tick the correct sentences about nanotubes.

CORRECT ANSWER
Nanotubes are made of pure carbon.
Nanotubes are very strong.
Nanotubes conduct electricity well.
EDDIE SAYS
Check the diagram of the nanotube structure. Each carbon atom is only linked to three neighbours; the missing fourth bond explains some of the strange chemical properties of nanotubes.
  • Question 8

What does a catalyst do?

CORRECT ANSWER
Makes a chemical reaction run faster.
EDDIE SAYS
There are other activities to help you learn about the rates of chemical reactions, and you will learn more about catalysts then. In biology, the molecules doing the same job are called enzymes.
  • Question 9

Which form of carbon was discovered with the help of sticky tape?

CORRECT ANSWER
graphene
EDDIE SAYS
It\'s a cool story, and it also helps you to remember the structure of graphene- it really is a single atom layer peeled from a piece of graphite.
  • Question 10

Pick half sentences to describe and explain the strength of graphene.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
For properties to do with weakness, the thing to look for is weaknesses in the structure. Graphite has weak bonds between the layers of atoms. Graphene doesn\'t have these, because there are no layers.
---- OR ----

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