Fullerenes in Space

John P. Maier, Ewen K. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1985 the discovery of the football‐like structure of C60 was reported based on the prominence of a peak observed at m/z 720 in the mass spectrum of laser‐vaporized graphite.1 Subsequently other fullerenes were proposed and these arrangements of carbon atoms were soon recognized as an entirely new and naturally occurring allotrope of carbon, in addition to well known graphite and diamond.2 The laser vaporization experiments were initially undertaken because this was thought to be a way to produce linear carbon chain molecules in the laboratory and hopefully pave the way to obtain their electronic spectra. The main motivation behind the early studies came from the fact that the cyano‐polyacetylenes were shown to be constituents of dense interstellar clouds by radioastronomy in the 1970’s.3 In the life‐cycle of stars, these clouds are the precursors of new stars and they themselves arise from diffuse clouds which in turn have accreted dust grains and molecules from dying stars.4
Whereas the dense clouds are opaque to visible radiation from stars, the diffuse ones transmit this to a differing degree. In the spectra of stars observed through these clouds absorption features called the diffuse interstellar bands (DIBs) are found, as illustrated in Figure 1. The first DIBs were discovered over a hundred years ago5 and with increasing sensitivity of optical detection they currently number around five hundred.6 In view of the fact that diffuse clouds are the predecessors of dense clouds one might expect that the cyano‐polyacetylenes or similar species are also present and could be among the molecules responsible for the DIBs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4920-4929
JournalAngewandte Chemie International Edition
Issue number18
Early online date10 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2017


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