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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 32  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 159-163

Fullerene and its applications: A review

Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Daswani Dental College and Research Centre, Kota, Rajasthan, India

Date of Submission21-Nov-2019
Date of Decision11-Mar-2020
Date of Acceptance25-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication27-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Poulomi Bhakta
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Daswani Dental College and Research Centre, IPB-19, RIICO Institutional Area, Ranpur, Kota, Rajasthan - 324005
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaomr.jiaomr_191_19

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Fullerene molecules are composed entirely of carbon, in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, or tube. Fullerenes in the cylindrical form are called carbon nanotubes (CNTs) or buckytubes and fullerenes in the spherical form are referred to as buckyballs. The CNT represents one of the unique inventions in nanotechnology. CNTs have been studied closely over the last two decades by many researchers around the world for their great potential in different fields. Fullerenes have attracted considerable attention in different fields of science since their discovery in 1985. Their unique carbon cage structure coupled with immense scope for derivatization makes them a potential therapeutic agent. The fullerenes can be utilized in organic photovoltaic (OPV), portable power, medical purpose, antioxidants, and biopharmaceuticals and dentistry.

Keywords: Antioxidants, buckyballs, carbon nanotubes, drug delivery, nanotechnology

How to cite this article:
Bhakta P, Barthunia B. Fullerene and its applications: A review. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2020;32:159-63

How to cite this URL:
Bhakta P, Barthunia B. Fullerene and its applications: A review. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 1];32:159-63. Available from: http://www.jiaomr.in/text.asp?2020/32/2/159/288127

   Introduction Top

Carbon has various allotropes like a diamond, graphite, etc., The third allotropic form of carbon is fullerene. Any molecule having only carbon atoms in various shapes like a hollow sphere, tube, or ellipsoid is called a fullerene. Fullerenes have interconnected carbon atoms in hexagonal and pentagonal rings. In the 1960s, Architect Buckminster Fuller fabricated cage-like geodesic domes. Fullerene name was given to this allotrope after the name of the architect.[1],[2]

[TAG:2]Types of Fullerene: [Table 1][3],[4],[5][/TAG:2]
Table 1: Types of Fullerene

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The types of fullerene are described in [Table 1].

Properties of fullerene [6]

The properties and disadvantages of fullerene are as follows:

  1. Pure fullerenes have a good close packing than impure fullerenes.
  2. C60 derivatives show level of solubility.[7]
  3. Fluorinated derivatives are more soluble and some Bromo derivatives are much less soluble.
  4. Fullerenes have low density (1.65 g/cc) relative to diamond (3.51 g/cc).
  5. Fullerenes are stable up to a temperature of 1,000°C.
  6. Fullerenes can react with nucleophiles.
  7. Fullerenes can undergo various reactions such as reduction, oxidation, hydrogenation, halogenation, nucleophilic reactions, radical reaction, transition metal complex reaction, regioselective reaction, and so on.[8]

Disadvantages of fullerene [6]

  1. Fullerenes are prone to degradation or decomposition in the presence of light and oxygen.[9]
  2. The intersystem crossing of singlet excited state to energetically lower triplet excited state results in the decomposition of C60. The triplet excited states are susceptible to many deactivation processes such as ground state quenching, quenching by molecular oxygen, and transfer of electrons to molecules.

Applications of fullerenes

There are various applications of fullerene which are discussed as below:


  • As organic photovoltaics (OPV)
  • As polymer additives
  • As catalysts
  • As water purification and bio-hazard protection catalysts
  • In portable power devices
  • As vehicles compounds
Figure 1: Buckyball Clusters

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Figure 2: Nanotubes

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Figure 3: Megatubes

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Figure 4: Polymers

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Figure 5: Nano-onions

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1. Antiviral activity:

Fullerene derivatives acts as anti-HIV agents by fitting smartly in the active site of the viral protease. The fullerene derivatives of cationic and anionic type inhibit the replication of HIV-RT and hepatitis C virus. Anionic type of fullerenes possesses antioxidant activity and cationic type shows antiproliferative and antibacterial properties.[11]

2. Antioxidant and Neuroprotective Activity:

Fullerenes have neuroprotective activity because fullerenes have capability to can react with oxygen species such as O2 (Superoxide) and •OH (Hydroxyl) radicals which can attack on lipids, proteins, DNA and other macromolecules with no consumption. Fullerenes are termed as radical sponges because they are considered as the world's most efficient radical scavenging agent.[12],[13] Fullerenes also act as a medical antioxidant. In disease condition cellular (reactive oxygen species) ROS production can cause apoptosis. So fullerene derivatives can defend apoptosis by neutralization of ROS.[14]

3. Fullerenes in Drug and Gene Therapy:

Fullerenes belong to a class of inorganic nanoparticles having a small size (~ 1 nm). The fullerene core being very hydrophobic, fullerenes can become water-soluble and be capable of carrying drugs and genes for the cellular delivery by attaching hydrophobic moieties. The derivatives of fullerenes are able to can cross the cell membrane to bind to mitochondria.[15]

4. As an X-ray contrast agent:

The fullerene derivatives can be used as X-ray contrast agents. C60 fullerenes have been proposed as contrast agents for MRI method. Especially promising for in vitro and in vivo NMR imaging are their complexes with gadolinium (containing Gd3 + ions entrapped inside the fullerene cage) known also as gadofullerene. The toxic heavy radio metal cannot exit from fullerenes cage once it has been placed. This property suggests the application of fullerenes as radiotracers in vivo.[16]

5. Antimicrobial Activity:

The fullerenes found to have potential antimicrobial activity due to its intercalation into biological membranes. The different strains of fungi and bacteria such as Candida albicans, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, and Mycobacterium avium showed positive results.[17]


1. Carrier for Drug Delivery:

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with various functionalities are described for targeting of Amphotericin B to Cells. The intracellular penetration was enhanced when doxorubicin with nanotube have given. For their nanosize carbon nanotubes finds an application in tablet manufacturing as lubricants or glidant.[18]

2. Genetic Engineering:

CNTs and CNH (Carbon nanohorns) are used to manipulate genes and atoms in the development of bioimaging genomes, proteomics, and in tissue engineering. Nanotubes and nanohorns can adhere to various antigens on their surface which can a source of antigens in vaccines.[19]

3. Preservative:

They are used as a preservative in anti-aging cosmetics and with zinc oxide in formulations to prevent oxidation.[20]

4. Implant Prosthesis:

The body exhibits a rejection reaction for implants associated with postoperative pain. This can be overcome by the use of miniature sized nanotubes and nanohorns get incorporated with other proteins and amino acids. Due to their high tensile strength, CNTs filled with calcium and arranged or grouped in the bone structure can act as a bone substitute or in the form of artificial joints.[21]

5. Diagnostic Tool:

Because of their ability of fluorescence with specific biomolecules, protein-encapsulated protein filled nanotubes have been used as implantable biosensors. Nanosize robots and motors with nanotubes can be used for the study of cells and biological systems.[21],[22]


1. Diagnosis and treatment of oral cancer:

The exosome is a membrane bound secretory vesicle containing a proteomic and genomic marker whose level is elevated in malignancy. This marker has been studied by using atomic force microscopy, which uses nanoparticles. The nano electromechanical system, oral fluid nanosensor test, and optical nanobiosensor can also be used for diagnosing oral cancer. Nanoshells which are minuscule beads are specific tools in cancer therapeutics. Nanoshells have outer metallic layers that selectively destroy cancer cells while leaving normal cells intact. Undergoing trials are nanoparticle-coated, radioactive sources placed close to or within the tumor to destroy it.[23] Gadolinium-containing endohedral fullerenes are MRI contrast agents for the diagnosis of several diseases.

2. Tissue engineering:

Potential applications of tissue engineering and stem cell research in dentistry include the treatment of orofacial fractures, bone augmentation, cartilage regeneration of the temporomandibular joint, pulp repair, periodontal ligament regeneration, and implant osseointegration. Tissue engineering enables the placement of the implant that eliminate a prolonged recovery period, that is biologically and physiologically more stable than previously used implants, and that can safely support early loading. Bone grafts can be better developed with the use of nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite because it stimulates the cell proliferation required for remodelling of periodontal tissue.[24]

3. Local anesthesia:

The gingiva of the patients is instilled with a colloidal suspension containing millions of active, analgesic, micron-sized dental robots that respond to input supplied by the dentist. After contacting the surface of the crown or mucosa, the ambulating nanorobots reach the pulp via the gingiva sulcus, lamina propia, and dentinal tubules, guided by chemical gradient, temperature differentials controlled by the dentist. Once in the pulp, they shut down all sensation by establishing control over nerve-impulse traffic in any tooth that requires treatment. After completion of treatment, they restore sensation providing the patient with anxiety free and needless comfort. Anesthesia is fast acting, and reversible, with no side effects or complications associated with its use.[25]

4. Hypersensitivity cure:

Changes in the pressure transmitted hydrodynamically to the pulp may cause hypersensitivity. The dentinal tubules of a hypersensitive tooth have twice the diameter and eight times the surface density of those in non sensitive teeth. Dental nanorobots could selectively and precisely occlude selected tubules in minutes using native logical materials, offering patients a quick and permanent cure.[26]

5. Orthodontic treatment:

Using excessive orthodontic force might cause loss of anchorage and root resorption. Reduction in the frictional force produced by an orthodontic movement by coating the orthodontic wire with inorganic fullerene-like tungsten disulfide nanoparticles (IF-WS2) known for their excellent dry lubrication properties. Orthodontic nanorobots could directly manipulate the periodontal tissues, allowing rapid and painless tooth straightening, rotating and vertical repositioning and rapid tissue repair within minutes to hours.[26]

6. Nanocomposite:

The latest advancement in the manufacturing process of dental composite resins is the utilization of nanoparticle technology. Inorganic fillers in nano dimensions are diffused homogeneously without any accumulation in the matrix in the artificial teeth produced from nanocomposites. Studies have shown that nanocomposite artificial teeth are more durable than acrylic teeth and microfill composite teeth and have a higher resistance to abrasion.[27]

7. Prevention of dental caries:

Using a toothpaste containing nanosized calcium carbonate enabled remineralization of early enamel lesions.[28]

   Future Aspects Top

The unique applications of fullerenes are due to the extraordinary structure of fullerenes. Because of its poor solubility in common organic solvents, spectroscopic analysis of products, purification, separation, and assessment of purity will become difficult. Today, the conjugation of fullerene-based biomolecules has become a primary strategy in overcoming the intrinsic hydrophobic obstacles encountered by fullerenes to use such molecules for biological purposes., Research toward the application of fullerenes in different physicochemical and pharmacological fields is still very active, and breakthroughs and applications are constantly being discovered. The high cost and low availability of fullerenes cause working on a tiny scale. Spirally arranged carbon atoms of nanotubes form concentric cylinders, that are perfect crystals and thinner than graphite whiskers. They are very flexible and lightweight but stronger than steel. They transfer heat better than any other material. These characteristics make them applicable for various applications such as super strong cables and tips for scanning probe microscopes and biomedical devices for drug delivery, medical diagnostic, and therapeutic applications. Most of the studies performed on the toxicity of C60-Fullerenes showed that these molecules are not cytotoxic to human and animal cells in vitro and their acute toxicity against animal tissues in vivo is low.[29]

   Conclusion Top

Over the past few years, many new findings and important aspects of these carbon molecules have been accumulated to develop a new exciting scientific field. Recent developments suggested that many of the proposed fullerene applications are a wide range of areas such as IT devices, diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, environmental, energy industries along with medical and dental fields. With the advancement of technology, it is also getting incorporated in various fields in dentistry (nano dentistry), including composite resin and bonding systems, coating materials for dental implants, and dental restorations. A wave of research and development activities all over the world has led to a very broad range spectrum of potential commercial applications, including anticancer drug delivery systems using photodynamic therapy, HIV drugs, and cosmetics to slow down the aging of human skin. The recent discovery that certain fullerene derivatives can stabilize immune effector cells to prevent or inhibit the release of proinflammatory mediators makes them potential candidates for several diseases such as asthma, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Gadolinium-containing endohedral fullerenes are MRI contrast agents for the diagnosis of several diseases. Finally, a new class of fullerene-based theranostics has been developed, which combine therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities to detect and kill cancer cells. Though it is relatively new in dentistry, the wide applications of these dental nanomaterials have created more exposure and opportunities to both dentists and patients.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]

  [Table 1]


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