The present invention is a method for the synthesis of fullerenes and/or nanotubes from precursor soot without the formation of carbonaceous soot. The method comprises the pyrolysis of a hydrocarbon fuel source by heating the fuel source at a sufficient temperature to transform the fuel source to a condensed hydrocarbon. The condensed hydrocarbon is a reaction medium comprising precursor soot wherein hydrogen exchange occurs within the reaction medium to form reactive radicals which cause continuous rearrangement of the carbon skeletal structure of the condensed hydrocarbon. Then, inducing dehydrogenation of the precursor soot to form fullerenes and/or nanotubes free from the formation of carbonaceous soot by continued heating at the sufficient temperature and by regulating the carbon to hydrogen ratio within the reaction medium. The dehydrogenation process produces hydrogen gas as a by-product. The method of the present invention in another embodiment is also a continuous synthesis process having a continuous supply of the fuel source. The method of the present invention can also be a continuous cyclic synthesis process wherein the reaction medium is fed back into the system as a fuel source after extraction of the fullerenes and/or nanotube products. The method of the present invention is also a method for producing precursor soot in bulk quantity, then forming fullerenes and/or nanotubes from the precursor bulk.
The invention was made with government support under contract no. DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded by the United States Department of Energy to UT-Battelle, LLC.; and the government has certain rights in the invention.