Great Balls O' Carbon
It was late on an August evening six years ago that Rice University professor Richard Smalley sat in his kitchen, cutting out shapes from a legal pad and taping them together. He was trying to come up with a model having 60 vertices to represent the 60-carbon molecule which he and his collaborators generated in the lab by laser-vaporizing carbon in helium gas.
Chemist Harold Kroto was one of these collaborators. He had come to Rice from the University of Sussex in England to use the Houston school's laser technique, with which he hoped to be able to generate carbon chains he thought might be components of interstellar dust. A year earlier, in 1984, Eric Rohlfing, Donald Cox, and Andrew Kaldor at the Exxon Research and Engineering Co., then in Annandale, N.J., had done a similar experiment and...