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Nat Chem. 2010 Jun;2(6):450-3. doi: 10.1038/nchem.644. Epub 2010 May 9.

Direct transformation of graphene to fullerene.

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University of Ulm, Central Facility of Electron Microscopy, Electron Microscopy Group of Materials Science, Albert Einstein Allee 11, 89069 Ulm, Germany.


Although fullerenes can be efficiently generated from graphite in high yield, the route to the formation of these symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing carbon cages from a flat graphene sheet remains a mystery. The most widely accepted mechanisms postulate that the graphene structure dissociates to very small clusters of carbon atoms such as C(2), which subsequently coalesce to form fullerene cages through a series of intermediates. In this Article, aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy directly visualizes, in real time, a process of fullerene formation from a graphene sheet. Quantum chemical modelling explains four critical steps in a top-down mechanism of fullerene formation: (i) loss of carbon atoms at the edge of graphene, leading to (ii) the formation of pentagons, which (iii) triggers the curving of graphene into a bowl-shaped structure and which (iv) subsequently zips up its open edges to form a closed fullerene structure.

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