Nobel Prize winner opens new laboratories

Sir Harry Kroto

19 June 2012

Nobel Prize winner, Sir Harry Kroto, has officially opened Aston’s new Chemical Engineering and Chemistry Teaching Laboratories.  

As part of the official opening, Sir Harry gave a talk ‘Carbon in Nano and Outer Space’, outlining his research which led to being awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and current research projects.    

Looking for evidence for the possibility of carbon chains in outer space, Sir Harry discovered the C60 molecule (Buckminsterfullerene), the ‘third form’ of carbon. This was discovered serendipitously during laboratory experiments designed to simulate the atmospheric conditions in cool red giant carbon stars.

He was one of the three recipients to share the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley. Their experiment carried out in September 1985 used laser spectroscopy, to prove that stars could produce carbon chains. It revealed the existence of the C60 species and the related class of molecules, the fullerenes.

Speaking at the launch of the new laboratories Sir Harry, the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University, highlighted the importance of chemistry, and of cross science collaborations for future breakthroughs.

He said; “In these difficult times the account of my own discovery and research provides evidence which supports the vital role that fundamental cross-disciplinary research has played in the past and will continue to play in the future in providing totally unpredictable advances of major scientific importance. The story of the discovery of the third form of carbon and its key role in the birth of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology is yet another example.”

C60 (Buckminsterfullerene), which resembles a soccer ball, is the most commonly naturally occurring fullerene molecule, as it can be found in small quantities in soot. Solid and gaseous forms of the molecule have both being detected in deep space. The latest confirmation of this was in 2010 by tell-tale signatures found in infra- red spectra obtained by NASA’s Spitzer satellite telescope.


For further media information please contact Alex Earnshaw, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or