Nanotubes and Other Forms of Carbon

Carbon is found naturally as graphite, diamond, buckyballs, and nanotubes.

The model shows the structure of one hexagonal layer of carbon atoms, a graphene sheet.

Stacks of graphene sheets form graphite, one of the allotropes of carbon. The structure easily cleaves between planes, leading to the utility of graphite writing pencils.

The model shows the structure of graphite, one of the allotropes of carbon. Its structure is comprised of hexagonal layers of carbon atoms. One such hexagonal layer, shown in yellow, is called a graphene sheet.

A graphene sheet can be rolled to form another allotrope of carbon called a carbon nanotube. The graphene sheet can be rolled more than one way, producing different types of carbon nanotubes.
Download a pdf file with hexagonal sheets. Print on paper to roll your own nanotube. Printing this file on a plastic transparency will let you show this experiment on an overhead projector.


The graphene sheet can be rolled more than one way, producing different types of carbon nanotubes. The three main types are armchair, zig-zag, and chiral.

A "zig-zag" carbon nanotube.

A "chiral" carbon nanotube.

An "armchair" carbon nanotube.

A carbon nanotube model showing its flexibility.

Carbon nanotubes flash when placed in a microwave oven. An orange solid remains, presumably iron oxide derived from the iron catalyst used in producing the nanotubes. A control experiment using iron powder (< 10 micron diameter) showed no effect under the same conditions.

Buckyball is another allotrope of carbon. This sixty carbon atom molecule is shaped like a soccer ball.

Buckyball is another allotrope of carbon, comprised of five and six membered rings. This model is built by assembling five membered rings around a five membered ring.

Buckyball is another allotrope of carbon, comprised of five and six membered rings. This model is built by assembling five membered rings around a six membered ring.

Buckyball has both five fold and six fold rotational symmetry.

A buckyball broken in half provides a template for a carbon nanotube.

A buckyball broken in half provides a template for a carbon nanotube.

Diamond is another allotrope of carbon.

*Magnetic models created by Eatai Roth, Anne-Marie Nickel, and Tim Herman through the Milwaukee School of Engineering NSF-sponsored REU program using the Rapid Prototyping Center and the Center for Biomolecular Modeling.


Exploring the Nanoworld   |   MRSEC Nanostructured Interfaces
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This page created by George Lisensky, Beloit College.  Last modified July 25, 2008 .