§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Lord Erroll of Hale asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What steps they are taking to encourage the use of Buckminsterfullerene in science and industry.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Reay)
My Lords, the Government have been following with interest the emergence of Buckminsterfullerene and support research currently being undertaken at Sussex University through the Science and Engineering Research Centre. However, it must be left to the judgment of firms whether they wish to pursue research into commercial applications of Buckminsterfullerene and other fullerenes.
§ Lord Erroll of Hale
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer, which is good so far as it goes. Can he not offer more substantial support in this country for the development of this exciting new form of carbon? It is already being manufactured in no fewer than three factories in the United States.
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, as I said, the Government continue to fund academic research into Buckminsterfullerenes at Sussex University. Many grants have been made available since 1986 which have gone towards that research. SERC also supports a number of researchers investigating the theoretical aspects of chemical bonding relating to fullerenes. The Government funding for collaborative research between industry and the academic world into the 590 commercial application of Buckminsterfullerenes may be available also under the Link scheme or other schemes.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, forgive my ignorance, but can the noble Lord say whether this thing is animal, vegetable or mineral?
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware, in supplementing his Answer, that the football-shaped carbon molecule is also known, for some extraordinary reason, as "Bucky ball"? It created a considerable stir within the scientific community. As the British Technology Group either has been, or is shortly to be, privatised, is this not a case that should be taken up by the privatised BTG and promoted as a British invention?
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, I believe it is the shape of a soccer football. Professor Kroto, whose group played a significant part in the development of Buckminsterfullerenes, described it as bearing the same relationship to a football as a football does to the earth. In other words, it is an extremely small molecule.