A 240-Atom Fullerene, and Related Polyhedra

The most well-known fullerene has the shape of a truncated icosahedron, best-known outside the world of geometry as the “futbol” / “football” / “soccer ball” shape — twenty hexagons and twelve pentagons, all regular. The formula for this molecule is C60. However, there are also many other fullerenes, both larger and smaller. One of my favorite is C240, simply because I sometimes make class projects out of building fullerene models with Zome (available at www.zometool.com), and the 240-atom fullerene is the largest one which can be built using Zome. Here’s what it looks like, as molecular models are traditionally colored.

C240 fullerene 2

This polyhedron still has twelve pentagons, like its smaller “cousin,” the truncated icosahedron, but far more hexagons. What’s more, these hexagons do not have exactly the same shape. If this is re-colored in the traditional style of a polyhedron, rather than a molecule, it looks like this. In this image, also, the different shapes of hexagon each have their own color.

C240 fullerene 1

Like other polyhedra, a compound can be made from this polyhedron and its dual. In this case, the dual’s faces are shown, below, as red triangles. The original fullerene-shape is in purple for the pentagonal faces, and orange for the hexagons.

C240 compound with dual

In the base/dual compound above, it can be difficult to tell exactly what this dual is, but that can be clarified by removing the original fullerene. What’s left is called a geodesic sphere — or, quite informally, a ball made of many triangles. The larger a fullerene is, the more hexagonal rings/faces it will have, and the more triangles will be found on the geodesic sphere which is its dual. For the 240-atom fullerene shown repeatedly, above, here is the dual, by itself, with different colors indicating slightly different triangle-shapes. (An exception is the yellow and green triangles, which are congruent, but have different colors for aesthetic reasons.)

C240 dual

I made these four rotating images using Stella 4d:  Polyhedron Navigator. To try this program for yourself, simply visit www.software3d.com/Stella.php. At that site, there is a free trial download available.