Don’t give me any buckyballs!

Sometimes I read Science Daily articles only because I am intrigued by the titles, as in this case: “Nanotechnology risks: how buckyballs hurt cells” (see:
Buckyballs??? Hmmm.

At first, I thought the word had to have been coined by a scientist with a quirky sense of humour, but it turns out that buckyball is simply the short version of “buckminsterfullerene,” named (because of its dome-like shape) after the U.S. architect R. Buckminster Fuller (aha!), who designed geodesic domes.


But wait, I haven’t said what they are: strong, heat-resistant and revolutionary nanosized particles that are already being made on a commercial scale for use in coatings and materials. The article unfortunately does not specify which coatings and materials…but I found that some of their potential uses would be in MRIs (in the form of bigger buckyballs called trimetaspheres) and drug delivery systems.


But, and there is a but!, buckyballs have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and alter cell functions. Wait a sec, I don’t know about you, but that sounds rather sinister to me!

And, in fact, tests have demonstrated that buckyballs cause brain damage in fish, and inhaling carbon nanotubes results in lung damage similar to that caused by asbestos. Nanotubes, by the way, are like elongated buckyballs.


Altered brain cells. Lung damage. Asbestos. Say no more.


You can keep your buckyballs…


  1. Something really funny that happened some years ago: I searched google to find out what buckyballs are. At that time, there was an eBay ad injected into the ads along side of every search. It was hilarious (to me) that there was an ad telling me I could buy buckyballs on eBay. It’s no longer there, but I saved a screenshot of it.

  2. Do we know what the “inventor” of buckyballs died of?

    This sounds SO similar to the stories about non-sized “colloidal” silicon dioxide (silica), used in so many supplement capsules. We know that silicon dioxide dust in the lungs causes a life-threatening disease called silicosis, so how can we possibly imagine that it is safe in the digestive tract?


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