Mildred Dresselhaus, the Queen of Carbon, Dies at 86


Dr. Dresselhaus used resonant magnetic fields and lasers to map out the electronic energy structure of carbon. She investigated the traits that emerge when carbon is interwoven with other materials: Stitch in some alkali metals, for example, and carbon can become a superconductor, in which an electric current meets virtually no resistance.

Dr. Dresselhaus was a pioneer in research on fullerenes, also called buckyballs: soccer-ball-shaped cages of carbon atoms that can be used as drug delivery devices, lubricants, filters and catalysts.

She conceived the idea of rolling a single-layer sheet of carbon atoms into a hollow tube, a notion eventually realized as the nanotube — a versatile structure with the strength of steel but just one ten-thousandth the width of a human hair.

She worked on carbon ribbons, semiconductors, nonplanar monolayers of molybdenum sulfide, and the scattering and vibrational effects of tiny particles introduced into ultrathin wires.


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