European Inventor Award 2010
Wolfgang Krätschmer Honored in the Category of „Lifetime Achievement”
Wolfgang Krätschmer has been awarded the European Inventor Award 2010 in the category of „lifetime achievement" for the development of the synthesis of fullerenes like C60, the soccer-ball molecule (European Patent Document EP 0500914B1 (1991/98)). In the presence of the Spanish Crown Prince couple the Award jury announced their decision during the European Inventor Award ceremony on 28 April in Madrid.
The fullerene synthesis was successfully accomplished by Wolfgang Krätschmer in 1990 at the MPI for Nuclear Physics together with D. R. Huffman and co-workers applying an astonishingly simple method: The soot which forms in an electric arc between graphite electrodes under inert gas in a cooled flask contains C60, minor amounts of C70 and traces of higher fullerenes. In addition nanotubes are formed. After extraction with a suitable solvent and chromatographic separation one obtains C60 crystals („fullerite"), a new modification of elementary carbon. Thus, enough substance became available for its physical and chemical characterization, and it could be shown that the soccer-ball structure supposed by the later Nobel Prize winners H. W. Kroto, R. F. Curl and R. E. Smalley for the C60 molecule, which they had detected mass-spectrometrically, was indeed correct. Afterwards, Krätschmer's group also prepared a number of derivatives of C60, di- und polymers as well as endohedral noble-gas and metal fullerene compounds which they investigated spectroscopically.