How does Graphene compare to Buckminsterfullerine?

12 December 2010

Question

How does graphene compare to buckminsterfullerine, which are known as bucky balls, as they were supposed to be a wonderful lubricant, but turned out to be too sticky.

Answer

James - So, if you have a bucky ball, that is considered zero dimensional. Even though it does have dimension - it doesn't reach out in different directions. If you have a nanotube, that's considered one-dimensional. It is extending in one direction and in the other direction, it's only about a nanometre wide. But fundamentally, it's considered one-dimensional whereas graphene is like a sheet, it's 2-dimensional. The fullerenes turned out in high compressive operations, they would actually tend to decompose in many structures and that's why they turned out not to be very good lubricants. Whether graphene is going to be a great lubricant, I don't know. Graphite, a 3-dimensional structure, is a good lubricant because it's able to shear off lots and lots of sheets of graphene which is really what makes it slippery.

Ben - So, the sheets themselves slide past each other, which is also why they make good pencil lead.

James - Correct, and whether a sheet of graphene would make a good lubricant, I'd rather doubt it in the sense that it does not have that ability to slide past itself. It is only one atom thick.

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