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Sir Harry Kroto Annual Buckyball Workshop

Sir Harry Kroto came to the University of Sheffield to study chemistry on the recommendation of his sixth form chemistry teacher in 1958. He then went on to complete a PhD, focussing on molecular spectroscopy - an area he continued to work on throughout his life.

In 1985, he was part of a team of scientists working in America who discovered a way that carbon atoms could be joined together to make a new kind of carbon molecule (alongside diamond and graphite) which he named ‘Buckminsterfullerene’. This third type of molecule is shaped like a traditional football and made up of carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons. We now call it the ‘Buckyball’ for short.

This discovery was so important that in 1996, Sir Harry was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and was knighted by the Queen.

So keen to share his enthusiasm for science Sir Harry developed a workshop for school pupils that he delivered all around the world. Sadly, Sir Harry passed away in April 2016, at the age of 76, but we’re sure he would have been delighted that the University of Sheffield is continuing this inspirational workshop in his memory.

Continuing the legacy

Academics and STEM Student Ambassadors from the University of Sheffield are delighted to be able to share Sir Harry's great discovery by continuing the annual ‘Buckyball Workshop’. Each year we invite a local school and their budding scientists of the future to join us in making their very own models of the buckyball using a specially provided kit.

The aim of the activity is to give pupils the chance to learn about the buckyball's interesting properties and relate these properties to other structures made from carbon, including the graphite used in pencils, and the diamond found in necklaces and rings.

On this fantastic day pupils will also don lab coats and roll up their sleeves in a wacky Polymer Slime and Bathbomb workshop, hosted by the University's Department of Chemistry. The young scientists will create brightly coloured polymer slime to demonstrate the idea of joining small molecules together to form long chain polymers, and create their very own ‘chemical reaction’ in their bath bombs.

We hope the day will spark their interest and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Buckyballs in your classroom

If you are a teacher in a Sheffield City Region school and would like to be able to have a go at building ‘Buckyballs’ with Year 7's in your classroom, you can use our fantastic ‘Buckyball Science Series Videos’ and request the special Buckyball kit by completing the ‘Request form’ to the right.  

Lady Margaret Kroto has established the Kroto Family Education Foundation which will enable the University to provide Buckyball kits FREE OF CHARGE to local schools who meet specific 'Widening Participation' criteria.  Teachers can apply for a set of 30 FREE Buckyball kits each year to support work with their Year 7's in the classroom.

Downloads

You can print instructions to help your pupils build their Buckyballs, and there are other activities linked to this topic that you might also want to use.

How to build your Buckyball (PDF 113KB)

Find the pentagon activity (PDF 145KB)

Algebra and Geometry (PDF 33KB)