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Landmark Lesson Plan: Discovery of Fullerenes

Grades: 9-12
Subject Area: Chemistry and Nanotechnology

The following inquiry-based student activities are designed for use in high school lesson planning. The handout, video and activities will help students understand the chemistry of fullerenes and to appreciate the events that led to their discovery.

The activities are designed as a ready-to-go lesson, easily implemented by a teacher or his/her substitute to supplement a unit of study. In chemistry, the activities relate to measurement, diatomic molecules and allotropes, nanoparticles, the relationship of molecular structure to properties of substances, and scientific discovery through collaboration and serendipity.

Download the complete lesson plan (PDF).

Resources include:

  • Teacher’s guide: Includes the handout, reference materials, student activities and answer guide
  • Handout: “Discovery of Fullerenes”
  • Reference materials: Table of Prefixes
  • Video supplement: Nanotechnology’s Big Impact (an ACS ChemMatters/Bytesize Science video)
  • Video supplement: Graphene: The Next Wonder Material? (an ACS ChemMatters/Bytesize Science video)
  • Student activities: Includes the five activities described below.

Student activities:

While these activities are thematically linked, each is designed to stand alone as an accompaniment for the handout and video. Teachers may choose activities based on curricular needs and time considerations.

  • Measurement Activity: The Power of Prefixes! Students develop familiarity with commonly used measurement prefixes and relate their meanings to word equivalents, decimal equivalents and powers of ten. Students explore the relationships of prefix magnitudes and relate their uses to familiar objects. (25-30 min.)
  • Sequencing Activity: The Discovery of Fullerenes Students use the handout to analyze a sequence of events that show how architectural inspiration, scientific collaboration and serendipitous observation all played a role in the discovery of fullerenes. (20-30 min.)
  • Elements that Come Together: What Are Molecular Elements? Students learn the diatomic elements and practice writing their formulas. Students explore the concepts of allotropes. (15-20 min.)
  • An Element of Many Forms: Allotropes of Carbon Students compare properties of different allotropes of carbon (graphite, diamond and fullerenes) and relate the differences in their properties to their molecular structures. (15-20 min.)
  • Building Buckyballs: Model Construction Activity Students construct a cardstock model of C60 and use it to observe and answer questions about its structure. (This activity is suitable for individual or group work.) (30-40 min.)

A buckminsterfullerene model.