Fullerenes: An extraterrestrial carbon carrier phase for noble gases


The National Academy of Sciences


In this work, we report on the discovery of naturally occurring fullerenes (C60 to C400) in the Allende and Murchison meteorites and some sediment samples from the 65 million-year-old Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary layer (KTB). Unlike the other pure forms of carbon (diamond and graphite), fullerenes are extractable in an organic solvent (e.g., toluene or 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene). The recognition of this unique property led to the detection and isolation of the higher fullerenes in the Kratschmer/Huffmann arc evaporated graphite soot and in the carbon material in the meteorite and impact deposits. By further exploiting the unique ability of the fullerene cage structure to encapsulate and retain noble gases, we have determined that both the Allende and Murchison fullerenes and the KTB fullerenes contain trapped noble gases with ratios that can only be described as extraterrestrial in origin.

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