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Buckyball discovery marks 30 years

It's been 30 years since Florida State University professor and Nobel Laureate Sir Harold Kroto first discovered a unique molecule made of 60 carbon atoms.

But the discovery of that Buckminsterfullerene molecule — or buckyballs — opened up a whole new world of materials research that is still being explored today.

Just last week, a researcher from the University of Basel wrote in the journal Nature that these molecules were part of a cloud of gas floating in between the stars. Kroto had made that prediction years ago, but scientists have only now just been able to adequately create the conditions in a lab to make a concrete determination.

The Royal Society of Chemistry honored Kroto and his contributions last week at a two-day symposium in London that attracted researchers from around the world including Florida State Professor of Chemistry Naresh Dalal and Associate Research Professor Steve Acquah.

Acquah works with buckyballs as part of his current research and worked directly with Kroto at Florida State. Kroto retired from Florida State after the spring semester and served as the spring commencement speaker.

"I've heard Harry Kroto talk about the sequence of events that led to the discovery of C60 in a few locations, across the burning embers of a fire pit to the esteemed halls of the Royal Society of Chemistry in London," Acquah said. "It's an intriguing scientific journey of perseverance and success which people across all majors can relate to. C60 is a beautiful molecule that is favored on the cover of many chemistry text books, and there are many promising applications."