Where's the Bucky Joe?

Sunday, June 01, 1997
First there were buckyballs, a new, spherical type of carbon molecule discovered in 1985 and named for their resemblance to Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. Then came buckytubes--molecules made of rolled-up sheets of carbon. Ounce per ounce, the tubes are 600 times stronger than steel. Now Daniel Colbert, a chemist at Rice University in Houston, gives us buckydoughnuts, shown here. He found them in the same sooty vaporized graphite where buckytubes form. Colbert suspects that the doughnuts form spontaneously from tubes that curl up on themselves, like a snake biting its tail. Colbert was able to see the doughnuts while no one else has because some of his colleagues have perfected a way to isolate the buckytubes that makes them more visible. While examining a sample of tubes with an atomic force microscope, his colleagues saw something unusual--a few doughnuts--and asked Colbert to take a look. His first glimpse of a doughnut surprised him. We were so astonished that we weren’t sure that seeing was believing in this case.
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