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The research team named their discovery the buckminsterfullerene after an architect who designed geodesic domes.
The molecule is now more commonly known as the "buckyball." The researchers who discovered it won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996.
A 2010 paper in the journal Nano Letters reports the invention of flexible, conductive textiles dipped in a carbon nanotube "ink" that could be used to store energy, perhaps paving the way for wearable batteries, solar cells and other electronics.
Perhaps one of the hottest areas in carbon research today, however, involves the "miracle material" graphene. It's the strongest material known while still being ultralight and flexible. Mass-producing graphene is a challenge, though researchers in April 2014 reported that they could make large amounts using nothing but a kitchen blender.
While scientists sometimes conceptualize electrons spinning around an atom's nucleus in a defined shell, they actually fly around the nucleus at various distances; this view of the carbon atom can be seen here in two electron cloud figures (bottom), showing the electrons in a single blob (the so-called s-orbital) and in a two-lobed blob or cloud (the p-orbital). It can link to itself, forming long, resilient chains called polymers.
It can also bond with up to four other atoms because of its electron arrangement.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that after that time, half of the carbon-14 in a sample decays away, according to the University of Arizona.
The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.Carbon has two electron shells, with the first holding two electrons and the second holding four out of a possible eight spaces.When atoms bond, they share electrons in their outermost shell.Carbon chemistry is still hot enough to capture Nobel Prizes: In 2010, researchers from Japan and the United States won one for figuring out how to link carbon atoms together using palladium atoms, a method that enables the manufacture of large, complex carbon molecules, according to the Nobel Foundation.Scientists and engineers are working with these carbon nanomaterials to build materials straight out of science-fiction.This method works on once-living organisms, including objects made of wood or other plant material.Carbon is a long-studied element, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to discover.Buckyballs have been found to inhibit the spread of HIV, according to a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling; medical researchers are working to attach drugs, molecule-by-molecule, to buckyballs in order to deliver medicine directly to sites of infection or tumors in the body; this includes research by Columbia University, Rice University and others.Since then, other new, pure carbon molecules — called fullerenes — have been discovered, including elliptical-shaped "buckyeggs" and carbon nanotubes with amazing conductive properties.[See Periodic Table of the Elements] Carbon occurs naturally as carbon-12, which makes up almost 99 percent of the carbon in the universe; carbon-13, which makes up about 1 percent; and carbon-14, which makes up a minuscule amount of overall carbon but is very important in dating organic objects.As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.