The next time you are tempted to complain about the price of a gallon of milk or even the cost of a new car, take a moment to give thanks that you don’t have to buy buckyballs.
Buckyballs — also known as endohedral fullerenes or buckminsterfullerenes — are small, but their price isn’t based on size. The current asking price for one gram is $167,000,000.
Buckyballs consist of one atom encased in a cage of 60 carbon atoms. The final product resembles an American soccer ball or European football — hence the nickname of buckyball.
Don’t have $167 million sitting around? Don’t worry. Designer Carbon Materials, a spin-off lab of Oxford University, sells the material in smaller quantities of 200 micrograms for the low price of $32,000. This is about one-fifteenth the weight of a single snowflake.
Endohedral fullerenes are in demand as scientists explore ways to improve the accuracy of atomic clocks. Currently, an atomic clock occupies the space of a dining room table. The use of endohedral fullerenes could reduce an atomic clock to the size of a microchip. Such application would allow GPS devices to increase their accuracy from their current span of a few yards down to one millimeter.