Friday, 4 July 2014

Playing (with the Bucky) Ball

As we've enjoyed our Kitchen Chemistry class, I bought this book as a extension to our current interest in chemistry.

The first we looked at was the buckyball, a soluble type of carbon molecule coded C60.

Here's what the man who discovered it has to say about it:

We tried to build a model of the buckyball, first with toothpicks and plasticine but they were too flimsy to stay up.

We then tried to construct the model using magnets.  That didn't succeed either because (1) we didn't have enough magnets to make 60 carbon atoms, and (2) we couldn't hold the molecular structure up long enough to form the ball shape.

Even though we did not manage to put the buckyball model together, we did get a good idea of its properties,

 as well as an interesting history leading up to its discovery:

 While learning about the properties of the buckyball from the good people at the University of Nottingham, we were led to watching the following video about graphene, which is essentially a one-layer, an-atom-thick size of carbon molecules.

The video made us feel a little better because we have at least managed to get a model of graphene, although we did it without realising what we were doing, or that the flat layer has a name!

In the end, to salvage our crumbling sense of self-worth, we put together a model of the water molecule using an orange, two toothpicks, and two plasticine balls.

The clip below shows a quick explanation to the make ups of water molecules and how the different strengths of chemical bonding result in water being in different states.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Science Sunday: 10 July Summer Ideas
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 7/1/14
  3. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the amazing new dryer
  4. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (7/5/14)


  1. Discovering you've done something you didn't even intend to - often makes for some of the most memorable learning experiences.

    1. Indeed! At the very least, we didn't feel so bad about our 'failures'. :-) Thank you for stopping by and to leave your comment, An Almost Unschooling Mom. I've been reading your blog and have been greatly inspired by what you do for years!

  2. I love your science at the moment. I had never heard of a bucky ball! I don't know if you've ever worked with marshmallows and toothpicks. I think almost unschoolers has a post on 3D modelling with them and she seemed to be fairly successful. We used jelly babies and toothpicks, which I think the children ate more of than they used to model with!

    1. Thank you for the suggestion, Claire. I think we have worked with marshmallows and toothpicks years ago, and I recall the result was quite good. I probably should have used that instead, but I wanted to try using what we already have at home rather than go out and buy additional items. :-) I really shouldn't stinge on materials, should I?

  3. I'd never even heard of a buckyball! So much to learn ... Brilliant that you created graphene and then were able to make the connection. I am starting to think that maybe it will be worth investing in one of those molecule-building kits at some point.
    We made model water molecules this week too, funnily enough. We used pancakes, grapes, white chocolate chips and chocolate sauce (delicious!). ONE DAY I will get around to blogging about it!
    Thank you for sharing, Hwee. I'm bookmarking to come back to all your wonderful links soon. :-)

    1. You're welcome, Lucinda. The thought of buying a molecule-building kit did cross my mind after our failed attempts at building the buckyball. It would have been absolutely cool to be able to use those kits. I'll be getting them for our next round of chemistry, when Tiger is a bit older. Your water molecules model sound fantastic, and very yummy! You do so much fun stuff with your children that you really must share those wonderful information! :-)


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