The fullerenes are constituted by a network formed by 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons, closing the sphere. Each carbon of a fullerene is sp hybridized in the form of a sigma bond (simple bond) with three other carbon atoms, subtracting one electron from each carbon. The most important property of Fullerenes is its high symmetry. In this one, there are 120 symmetry operations, such as axis rotations or reflections in the plane. This makes the C60 molecule the most symmetrical molecule since it has the largest number of symmetry operations. For the C60 molecule, there are three types of rotation axes C2, C3 and C5. This article is all about the applications of fullerenes.
Disclaimer: The content of this post or any other linked material is intended for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical or technical advice.
Uses of Fullerene
The applications of fullerenes range from molecular electronics, where they have interesting properties as rectifiers, to biomedicine, where, taking advantage of the fact that they are hollow, gadolinium atoms have been enclosed inside which, thanks to their magnetic properties, increases the signal in resonance studies. Although these applications seem very promising, we have a molecular recycling problem. Nowadays it is known how to enclose atoms within fullerenes and how to direct them towards a specific point of the organism where they will perform their reparative work.
Fullerenes have been a focus of attention in the different fields of science since their discovery. Their properties and physical characteristics that make them unique are the factors that make them unusual and appreciable materials. Fullerene has been used in the industry in different ways, for example, Bardahl used this material to include it in its oils, specifically in the manufacturing of the Technos C60 oil that provides a triple protection layer. It has various applications such as surface coating, conductive devices, and the creation of molecular networks. In addition, within the field of medicine, a water-soluble fullerene showed activity against Human Immunodeficiency viruses that cause AIDS, it can even be used as an antioxidant.
1. Fullerene as a material for semiconductor technology
Molecular crystal of fullerene is a semiconductor with a bandgap of 1.5 eV ~ and its characteristics are almost similar to those of other semiconductors. It has conventional applications in electronics such as diode, transistor, photocell, etc.
2. Uses of Fullerenes in Solar Cells
Due to its electronic characteristics, one of the most advanced applications is its use in solar cells.Since the 1990s, light-induced processes in supramolecular and multicomponent systems involving C60 molecules have been the subject of intensive research. Such interest is due to the property that fullerene has to accept electrons; In this way, if the C60 binds to a molecule that yields these electrons when it is exposed to light, we can manufacture devices that mimic the photosynthetic processes that occur in plants and thus obtain solar cells.
Using organic polymers composed of fullerenes, attempts are made to emulate the processes of photosynthesis of nature. There is a possibility that paints composed of fullerenes can be applied on any surface and become photovoltaic, generating electricity but integrated into the environment. Instead of uncomfortable and aesthetic plates, electricity is generated by painting, for example, the exterior walls of buildings. It is also tried to draw electronic circuits with simple techniques similar to graphic printing, instead of the expensive and complex current systems.
3. Fullerenes in Electronic Battery
The electronic battery must be emphasized in the midst of other exciting applications which used fullerenes. The basis of these batteries is lithium cathodes. Fullerenes can also be used as additives for synthetic diamonds high-pressure method. It increases the output by 30%.
4. Fullerenes in Fire Retardant Paint
In addition, fullerenes found use as additives in fire retardant paint. Due to the introduction of fullerenes, paint under the influence of temperature swells in case of fire, there is a fairly dense layer which builds up a couple of times while being heated to a critical temperature of the protected structures. Fullerenes and its different chemical derivatives are used in combination with semiconducting polymers for the production of solar units.
5. Fullerenes’ Medical Applications
Comprehensive research on the biomedical applications of this molecule has been underway since its discovery. The greatest challenge that scientists faced in doing so was their insolubility in aqueous media and their tendency to form aggregates. This was overcome with the use of several techniques such as encapsulation of fullerenes with hydrophilic molecules, suspending this molecule with other solvents and conjugating it with other hydrophilic molecules.
6. Fullerene as an Antioxidant
Fullerene C60 is a great antioxidant, and for us, it is the most important thing to highlight. Fullerene C60, due to a large number of double bonds, behaves as a powerful antioxidant. But its ability to easily penetrate inside the cells, in its nucleus and its mitochondria, makes it a more effective intracellular free radical hunter that exists. It is a great promise against neurodegenerative diseases and at a scientific and medical level, it cannot go unnoticed.
The fullerene C60, due to its small size, can easily cross the so-called blood-brain barrier. This wonderful property can entail numerous medical applications, especially in the field of nanomedication, through the development of new active compounds that the brain could use. Fullerene C60 is discovered as a very effective and hopeful substance in the treatment of various neuronal problems.
Ongoing studies also show that it delays the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and its antioxidant abilities reveal that it has neuroprotective effects against degenerative diseases of the Parkinson type and the like. In fact, fullerene C60 has the ability to remove superoxide and peroxide anion (H202) and effectively inhibit lipid peroxidation.
Fullerene could somehow be considered as an active element in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as researchers have shown that it fights the aggregation of beta-amyloid proteins and the degeneration of pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus. This could lead to the development of new medications for the brain, associating its antioxidant and antiplatelet properties.
7. Fullerene Increases life expectancy in rats
In science, there are many casual discoveries that seem impossible to believe. As long as there is no convincing explanation, we must be skeptical. A study published in the journal Biomaterials from Elsevier states that orally administering an oil containing buckyballs (spherical C60 fullerenes) manages to double life expectancy in rats. Researchers at the University of Paris and their colleagues suggest that the reason is the effect of C60 as an antioxidant. Pharmacokinetic studies conducted over the past 25 years have shown that dissolved C60 is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and removed within a few hours, so its toxicity is very low; Therefore, its use had been proposed for the encapsulation of certain drugs (in biomedical applications such as cancer therapies and neurodegenerative diseases). But from there to that the oral administration of C60 dissolved in olive oil (0.8 mg/ml) in repeated doses can double the life expectancy of the rats, is an enormous step.
8. Fullerenes’ Use in Nanomedicine
Another important field of use is nanomedicine. It is about enclosing beneficial molecules for the organism inside fullerene balls and directing them to bacteria, or cancer cells. Upon reaching the destination, the spheres are dissolved, releasing all their content at the appropriate points, thus displaying all their effectiveness without being lost along the way.
9.Fullerenes as Proactive Agent for Cells
The application of C60 fullerene in biological, pharmacological and medical areas has been very promising. For example, it has been observed that C60 fullerene is an effective free radical scavenger, so it can be used as a protective agent for cells or to reduce oxidative stress; In addition, when photo irradiated, the C60 fullerene can produce radicals, so it can also be used in photodynamic therapies.
10. Fullerenes for Controlled Release of Drugs
The fullerene is an interesting element for the controlled release of drugs. Because they can be multifunctional, they can act as “absorbents” of drugs to form particles on a nanometric scale. An example of this is the derivative of the fullerene called methaneofulerene, which, together with certain drugs that are used against cancer, has demonstrated an important activity in tissues and the slow and prolonged release of the drug.
11.Fullerenes’ Antibacterial and Antiviral Action
One of the medical applications of fullerenes is the antibacterial and antiviral activity that these molecules possess. The first reports of the antibacterial activity of fullerene derivatives were reported in 1996. The main mechanism of action of fullerene when introduced into a bacterium is the rupture of the cell membrane of the bacterium, due to the large volume of the sphere, which seems to not adapt to a flat cell surface. In addition, since the fullerenes have the particularity of reacting with oxygen, when they convert into hydrogen peroxide, they can inhibit the respiratory chain of the bacteria.
But without a doubt one of the most important possible applications of the fullerenes in the area of medicine is the report published in 1993 by a group of scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles, which was about the possible inhibition of Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) proteases by the interaction of fullerene with the enzyme’s hydrophobic active site. Although many of the mechanisms of bacterial and viral inhibition are not fully understood, the use of fullerenes in medicine represents one of the most attractive, encouraging and promising research fields of the moment.
12.Incorporation of fullerenes in the polymers
Due to the incorporation of fullerenes in the polymers, electro-active and optical limiting properties would be achieved. This could mainly be applied in surface coating, conductive devices and in the creation of new molecular networks.
13.Growth Potential of Fullerenes
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 for the discovery of Mr. Fuller’s balls, is still active and has surprised the entire scientific community with his latest publication in the journal Nature Communications. It describes the discovery that fullerenes are self-assembling through a closed network growth mechanism, that is, the trick of the formation of Buckyballs was in their growth by incorporating or absorbing carbon atoms and molecules. This discovery was not simple, it required a lot of ingenuity and a bit of luck since the fullerene formation happened in an instant. They started with a few fullerene molecules mixed with carbon and helium and shot them with a very powerful laser and, instead of destroying the fullerenes, they were surprised to find that they had actually grown.
As shown above, Fullerene has a variety of applications ranging from medical sector to electronic industry. It has excellent anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial properties which encourage its use in the medical sector. One of the important medical applications of fullerene is the controlled release of drugs. In the electronic industry, its applications can be found in solar cells, diode, and semiconductors. Fullerene has great potential in the pharmaceutical sectors as well as its use in nanomedicine is of great importance. Fullerene may be used in pharmacy for the creation of new pharmaceuticals. The researches are still busy in discovering more of its applications and with the passage of time, the demand for various kind of fullerene will increase.