Rice University logo

Robert F. Curl

University Professor Emeritus, Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Natural Sciences Emeritus, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus

Curl is best known as a member of the team that discovered the carbon cage compounds known as the fullerenes could be produced in good yield when elemental carbon vapor is allowed to condense under the right conditions.  The fullerenes are the only known form of elemental carbon.  Because of its maximum symmetry and high relative yield, icosahedral  C60 known as buckminsterfullerene or familiarly as “bucky ball” is the most well known of the fullerenes.  For this discovery, Curl shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 with Harold Kroto and Richard Smalley.


Over his long career, Curl has carried out research in a number of fields of physical chemistry involving both experiment and theory.  His research has primarily focused on studying the spectra, structure, and kinetics of small free radicals using microwave spectroscopy and tunable lasers. For the early microwave spectroscopy research on stable free radicals, he developed the theory of their fine and hyperfine structure. The purposes of tunable laser aspect of this work were to develop sensitive methods for detecting these radicals and following their concentration to obtain and analyze high resolution spectra of these species thereby providing definitive information about their electronic and geometrical structure, and to study the kinetics of their reactions. 



D. L. Brito and R. F. Curl Economics of Pricing the Cost of Carbon Dioxide Restrictions in the Production of Electricity.  Energy Journal, 32 2011

R. Lewicki, A. Kosterov, D. M. Thomazy, T. H. Risby, S. Solga, T. Day, R. F. Curl and F. K. Tittel Faraday rotation spectroscopy of nitrogen dioxide based on a widely tunable external cavity quantum cascade laser.  Proc. of SPIE, 7945: 5 0O 2011

D. G. Melnik, J. Liu, M.-W. Chen, T. A. Miller, and R. F. Curl The spectroscopic characterization of the methoxy radical. III. Rotationally resolved Ã2A1X2E electronic and X 2E submillimeter wave spectra of partially deuterated CH2DO and CHD2O radicals .  J. Chem. Phys., 135 2011: 094310

M. Thakur, D. Melnik, H. Barnett, K. Daly, C. H. Moran, W.-S. Chang, S. Link, C. T. Bucher, C. Kittrell, R. F. Curl Wide-field four-channel fluorescence imager for biological applications.  J. Biomed. Opt., 15 2010: 026013

A. Kosterev, G. Wysocki, Y. Bakhirkin, S. So, R. Lewicki, M. Fraser, F. K. Tittel, and R. F. Curl Application of quantum cascade lasers to trace gas analysis.  Appl. Phys. B: Lasers and Optics, 90 2008: 165-176

R. F. Curl, M. K. Lee, and G. E. Scuseria C60 Buckminsterfullerene high yields unraveled.  J. Phys. Chem. A, 112 2008: 11951-11955

G. Wysocki, R. Lewicki, R. F. Curl, F. K. Tittel, L. Diehl, F. Capasso, M. Troccoli, G. Hofler, D. Bour, S. Corzine, R. Maulini, M. Giovanni, J. Faist Widely tunable mode-hop free external cavity quantum cascade lasers for high resolution spectroscopy and chemical sensing.  Appl. Phys. B: Lasers and Optics, 92 2008: 305-311

D. Melnick, J. Liu, R. F. Curl and T. A. Miller Development of the Hamiltonian and matrix elements for partially deuterated methoxy radical.  Mol. Phys., 105 2007: 529-540

J. Han, S. Hu, H. Chen, Y. Utkin, J. M. Brown and R. F. Curl Jet-cooled infrared spectrum of methoxy in the CH stretching region.  Phys. Chem. Chem Phys., 9 2007: 3725-3734

F. K. Tittel, Y. A. Bakhirkin, R. F. Curl, A. A. Kosterev, M. M. McCurdy, S. G. So and G. Wysocki Laser based chemical sensor technology: recent advances and applications.  Advanced Environmental Monitoring 2007

R. Perez, J. M., Brown, Y. Utkin, J. Han, R. F. Curl Observation of hot bands in the infrared spectrum of H2CO.  J. Mol. Spectrosc., 236 2006: 151-157

Yu. A. Bakhirkin, A. A. Kosterev, R. F, Curl, F. K. Tittel, D. A. Yarekha, L. Hvozdara, M. Giovannini, J. Faist Sub-ppbv nitric oxide concentration measurements using CW thermoelectricaly cooled quantum cascade laser-based integrated cavity output spectroscopy.  Appl. Phys. B, 82 2006: 149-154

E. K. Lewis, W. C. Haaland, F. Nguyen, D. A. Heller, M. J. Allen, R. R. MacGregor, C. S. Berger, B. Willingham, L. A. Burns, G. B. I. Scott, C. Kittrell, B. R. Johnson, R. F. Curl, and M. L. Metzker Color-blind fluorescence detection for four-color DNA sequencing.  Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 102 2005: 5346-5351

G. Wysocki, R. F. Curl, F. K. Tittel, R. Maulini, J. M. Bulliard, J. Faist Widely Tunable Mode-hop Free External Cavity Quantum Cascade Laser for High Resolution Spectroscopic Applications.  Appl. Phys. B, 81 2005: 769-777

J. H. Chen, S. So, H. S. Lee, M. P. Fraser, R. F. Curl, T. Harman, and F. K. Tittel Atmospheric formaldehyde monitoring in the greater Houston area in 2002.  Appl. Spectrosc., 58 2004: 243-247

M. Horstjann, Y. A. Bakhirkin, A. A. Kosterev, R. F. Curl, F. K. Tittel, C. M. Wong, C. J. Hill, R. Q. Yang Formaldehyde sensor using interband cascade laser based quartz-enhanced photoacoustic spectroscopy.  Appl. Phys. B, 79 2004: 799-803

Y. A. Bakhirkin, A. Kosterev, C. Roller, R. F. Curl, and F. K. Tittel Mid-infrared quantum cascade laser based off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy for biogenic nitric oxide detection.  Appl. Opt., 43 2004: 2257-2266

D. Weidmann, A. A. Kosterev, C Roller, R. F. Curl, M. P. Fraser, and F. K. Tittel Monitoring of ethylene by pulsed quantum cascade laser.  Appl. Opt., 43 2004: 3329-3334

G. Wysocki, M. McCurdy, S. So. D. Weidmann, C. Roller, R. F. Curl, and F. K. Tittel Pulsed quantum-cascade laser-based sensor for trace gas detection.  Appl. Opt., 43 2004: 6040-6046

  • B.A.(1954) Rice Institute ()
  • Ph.D.(1957) University of California, Berkeley ()
  • Rice Quantum Institute
  • Physical Chemistry
Email: rfcurl@rice.edu
Phone: (713) 348-4816
Office: Space Science & Tech. Bldg., 211