Restaurants succeed because people would rather buy the food than prepare and cook it themselves. The situation may be the same with fullerenes--and that's what a handful of companies are banking on.
"You can get nice, pure stuff if you make it yourself, but that route is not without problems. It takes about a week to get 250 milligrams of pure material. So the prices are not out of line at all," says Christopher Foote, a chemist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Price ranges offered by the different companies reflect the newness and rapid pace of fullerene research, with some companies charging different prices for academic and industrial buyers, and offering fullerenes in various degrees of purity. For example, Texas Fullerenes Corp. of Houston--a startup waiting for a license under any patent issued to Richard Smalley, the Rice...