In the mid-1980s a new class of carbon material was discovered called carbon 60 (C60). Harry Kroto and Richard Smalley, the experimental chemists who discovered C60 named it "buckminsterfullerene", in recognition of the architect Buckminster Fuller, who was well-known for building geodesic domes, and the term fullerenes was then given to any closed carbon cage.
C60 are spherical molecules about 1nm in diameter, comprising 60 carbon atoms arranged as 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons: the configuration of a football. In 1990, a technique to produce larger quantities of C60 was developed by resistively heating graphite rods in a helium atmosphere. Several applications are envisaged for fullerenes, such as miniature ‘ball bearings’ to lubricate surfaces, drug delivery vehicles and in electronic circuits.
Another fairly common fullerene is C70 and fullerenes with 72, 76, 84 and even up to 100 carbon atoms have been synthesized.