Building a Buckyball

Buckyball photo

The completed buckyball model

Printable version (PDF)

A buckyball is a soccer-ball-shaped molecule made up of 60 carbon atoms. It’s also known as C60, or a buckminsterfullerene. Its shape is called a truncated icosahedron, and is made up of hexagons and pentagons. Researchers have developed applications for buckyball molecules in a wide range of fields from solar cells to medical treatments.

In this activity, you will build a paper model of a buckyball that will be about 8 cm across, but a real buckyball is only about 1 nm across – so your model will be about 80 million times bigger! The solid lines are carbon-carbon bonds, and the dark circles are carbon atoms.

What you need

What to do

  1. Print out the template.
  2. Carefully cut out the entire shape. The solid lines are for the carbon-carbon bonds, and the dotted lines are for tabs for assembly.
  3. Carefully fold along all the solid lines. Fold them so that the printed side of the paper is facing outward, and the folds go toward the back.
  4. Assemble using either a glue stick or clear tape.
    Glue stick method: apply glue to the tabs inside the dotted lines one at a time, and stick them to adjacent paper faces so that the tabs end up on the inside of the buckyball.
    Clear tape method: cut the tape into smaller pieces, and apply a piece of tape to a tab on the back, and attach to the adjacent paper faces so that the tabs end up on the inside of the buckyball.
  5. As your structure closes up, you may need to use clear tape on the outside of the structure to complete it.

Learn more about buckyballs: