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Sussex chemist features in Royal Institution Christmas Lecture

Buckyball: Professor Sir Harry Kroto tells Dr Peter Wothers about his discovery of the C60 carbon molecule during the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2012.

A University of Sussex scientist lent his Nobel Prize gold medal for an experiment on national television last week.

Professor Sir Harry Kroto, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, was awarded a share in the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research at Sussex in the mid 1980s on a new form of carbon.

And Dr Peter Wothers, who was giving the 2012 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, used Professor Kroto’s prize medal - made of solid 18-carat green gold and plated with 24-carat gold - to find out whether a member of the audience was really worth her weight in gold.

Professor Kroto, who was a full-time member of the Chemistry faculty at Sussex for 37 years until 2004, then described what he won his Nobel Prize for.

In 1985 he and two US colleagues discovered a new form of carbon - the C60 molecule - created from 60 carbon atoms in the structure of a football and known as the buckminsterfullerene’ or ‘buckyball’. “It was such a fantastic surprise when we discovered it,” recalled Professor Kroto.

During the Royal Institution lecture, Dr Wothers and Professor Kroto also investigated – “in the name of science” - what happens when you set fire to a diamond.

The annual lecture series, filmed in front of a live audience of schoolchildren, is designed to present scientific subjects to a general audience in an informative and entertaining manner.

This year’s subject was the chemistry of the world around us: air, water and earth.

Sir Harry took part in the final of the three hour-long programmes, which was broadcast on BBC Four on 28 December and is available online until 8.59pm on Friday (4 January). Sussex staff and students can also watch it via the Box of Broadcasts service: just log in with your ITS username and password.

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Posted on behalf of: Chemistry
Last updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2013

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