# What's the difference between graphite, nanotubes, and fullerenes?

I understand that all of these are made up of carbon atoms but I don't understand what differentiates them. Since they are carbon they all must have covalent bonds, right?

• Welcome to Chemistry.SE! Have you done any online search yourself to collect some information on the topics? For the "buckyball", you might want to search for "fullerene". Feb 6 '14 at 14:25
• Out of the research I've done I was unable to find anything that relates to their bond types, are the differences only structural? Feb 6 '14 at 14:34
• Please don't take this too literal, but I'd say you can think about it as similar to the relation between ice, liquid water and water steam: All 3 have the same kind of link between the water molecules (hydrogen bonds) but the properties are much different due to the structural differences within the respective hydrogen bond networks (well, for water steam you don't have much of a network). Feb 6 '14 at 14:58
• You might want to add diamond to the list. Dec 31 '14 at 13:58

All three carbon modifications indeed contain covalently bond carbon atoms. The $sp^2$-hybridized C atoms are connected by $\sigma$ and delocalized $\pi$ bonds in all cases. It is the geometric arrangement of the atoms that differentiates the modifications: Stacked planes in graphite, fullerenes: ball-shaped molecules (hence the name buckyball), and for carbon nanotubes, the name is quite self-explanatory.

A single layer of the graphite structure:

A $\ce{C60}$ fullerene molecule:

And finally some carbon nanotubes:

Structure and bonding is interconnected, there is not such thing as "only structural differences".

Carbon has many allotropes, including graphite and diamond. You can say they just differ in structure, yet, this difference leads to a metallic sheet in the case of graphite, and an insulating 3D structure in the case of diamond.

You can think about carbon nanotubes, fullerenes and graphene as somewhat modified versions od graphite with the same delocalized / metallic sp2 carbon sheets. However that the fact that you curve / roll the carbon sheet and you reconnect certain carbons e.g. to form a tube, you do actually modify the delocalized / metallic nature of the carbon sheet. Specifically, e.g. carbon nanotubes can be semi-conducting or metallic, depending on how you roll up the carbon sheet to a tube.