You hear about fullerenes but you didn’t stop for a while to discover how it helped the society. It is time that you pay close attention to the C60 fullerene. Buckminsterfullerene was the first discovered fullerene and it was named after Buckminster Fuller – who designed geodesic dome. Buckminsterfullerene is an allotrope of carbon discovered in 1985.
Generally, fullerenes are hollow cages comprising of carbon atoms linked in hexagonal and pentagonal rings. Since the discovery, there are many structural variations evolved. Types include buckyball clusters (like C20 and C60), nanotubes, mega tubes, polymers, nano “onions” and fullerene rings. Of all fullerene, C60 is the most studied because of its low price, availability and high symmetry. It is made of 60 carbons at 60 vertices that form a dome-like structure.
It is time to know its applications. Here’s how fullerene helps today’s world:
In personal care products
You have to know that fullerene is considered a powerful antioxidant. It reacts highly with free radicals, which is the primary reason for cell damage or death. Scientists consider C60 as a “radical sponge” or “superior radical scavenger”. This is because it can neutralise up to 34 free radicals per molecule.
It can improve the skin’s absorption thereby fighting the manifestation of wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin and even dark spots caused by cell oxidation. For instance, it is found in whitening creams inhibiting UVA-induced melanin formation. The derivative of C60 that is water-soluble is added to cosmetics can prevent skin damage including premature aging of the skin.
In drug delivery
Interestingly, fullerenes can be utilised as a drug delivery system. Drug delivery refers to the proper movement of a pharmaceutical compound to the site of action. Fullerene can deliver the molecules with great efficacy because they preserve biological activity and they are small enough to be dispersed.
In drug lubricant coatings
Fullerene is developed to reduce the friction of rolling and sliding parts like ball bearings, gears, artificial joints, pumps, screws, and chains. The reduction of the friction means an improvement in wear resistance in parts.
You should know that oxidation can lead to cell damage and eventually death. Fullerenes react with many radicals before being consumed. It was mentioned earlier that it could neutralise up to 34 free radicals per molecule. Apart from that, it can bind ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) thereby preventing damage to cells. In the case of plastics and metal, oxidation can deteriorate its condition leading to corrosion and damage.
In suppressing replication
Fullerenes have the potential as an antiviral agent because it has the capacity to contain the replication of the dreaded HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). With this, it can delay the onset of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
In protective eyewear
Fullerenes have the ability to reduce the transmittance of light disturbance. With this, it can be used as an optical limiter useful in protective eyewears including sensors.