image of buckyballs

Sir Harry Kroto - Kroto Family Education Foundation

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 his wife, Lady Margaret Kroto, established the Kroto Family Education Foundation which enables the University to continue to help local school pupils learn about the Buckminsterfullerene.

Continuing the legacy - Buckyballs in your Classroom

Your own budding scientists of the future can learn all 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, by building their very own model buckyball using a specially provided kit.

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 your class, 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 enables 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 pupils in the classroom.


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)