Science's Amazing New Building Blocks

At first glance, chemist Richard E. Smalley's laboratory at Rice University in Houston looks more like a welding operation than a research center. In one corner, a Sears arc welder vaporizes a carbon rod. In the searing 2,500C heat of the machine, atoms of common carbon--as in pencil lead--cling together in a grimy soot. But that black powder contains a miracle of chemistry: carbon atoms that have combined in never-before-seen shapes--molecular soccer balls, tubes, and even a helical form.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.