The key difference between fullerene and carbon nanotubes is that fullerene is an allotrope of carbon that can exist in different shapes and sizes, whereas carbon nanotubes are a type of fullerene with cylindrical shapes.
There are different types of allotropes of carbon, such as diamond, graphite, and fullerene. All these types are chemical structures made of only carbon atoms.
What is Fullerene?
Fullerene is a type of allotrope of carbon having molecules of carbon atoms bonded to each other via single and double bonds to form a closed or partially closed mesh having fused rings of 5 or 7 atoms. This molecule can occur as hollow spheres, ellipsoids, tubes, or other shapes and sizes.
If the fullerene is a closed mesh topology, it is informally denoted by the empirical formula Cn, where n is the number of carbon atoms. Sometimes, some values for n represent more than one isomer. The most famous number of this group is buckminsterfullerene. It was named after Buckminster Fuller. Therefore, closed fullerenes are also known as buckyballs, which resemble standard balls of association football.
When considering the properties of fullerene, each carbon atom is connected to only three neighboring atoms, and those bonds are mixtures of single and double covalent bonds. The hybridization of these carbon atoms can be given as sp2. According to some research studies, the reactivity of fullerene can be increased by attaching active groups to the surfaces.
What are Carbon Nanotubes?
Carbon nanotubes, or simply nanotubes, are a type of tube made of carbon atoms, and these tubes have diameters typically measured in nanometers. There are two types of nanotubes as single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-wall carbon nanotubes ( MWCNTs).
SWCNTs can be described as allotropes of carbon that are intermediates between fullerene and flat graphene. We can idealize these nanotubes as cutouts from a 2D hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms that are rolled up along one of the Bravais lattice vectors of the hexagonal lattice, forming a hollow cylinder.
On the other hand, MWCNTs consist of nested single-wall carbon nanotubes that are weakly bound together through Van der Waals interactions in a tree-like ring structure. Sometimes, we refer to them as double- and triple-wall carbon nanotubes.
Carbon nanotubes show remarkable electrical conductivity. They also exhibit excellent tensile strength and thermal conductivity. This is due to the nanostructure and strength of the bonds between carbon atoms. In addition, we can chemically modify nanotubes.
What is the Difference Between Fullerene and Carbon Nanotubes?
Fullerene is an allotrope of carbon. It can occur in different shapes and sizes, such as cylindrical shapes, spherical shapes, ellipsoid shapes, etc. The key difference between fullerene and carbon nanotubes is that fullerene is an allotrope of carbon that can exist in different shapes and sizes, whereas carbon nanotube is a type of fullerene that has a cylindrical shape. The most common structure of fullerene is a spherical buckyball structure, which has a closed or partially closed mesh having fused rings of 5 or 7 atoms, while carbon nanotubes have tube-like structures in which each carbon atom has three covalent bonds with neighboring atoms.
Summary – Fullerene vs Carbon Nanotubes
Carbon is a common and abundant chemical element on earth. It can exist in different forms known as allotropes of carbon. Fullerene is also a type of allotrope of carbon. The key difference between fullerene and carbon nanotubes is that fullerene is an allotrope of carbon that can exist in different shapes and sizes, whereas carbon nanotubes are a type of fullerene with a cylindrical shape.
1.“Fullerene.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
1. “C20 Fullerene” By Perditax – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
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