Abstract

Fullerenes have been reported from diverse geologic environments since their discovery in shungite from Karelian Russia. Our investigation is prompted by the presence of onionskin-like structures in some carbonaceous substances associated with the fossil nuclear fission reactors of Oklo, Gabon. The same series of extractions and the same instrumental techniques, laser desorption ionization and high-resolution mass spectroscopy (electron-impact mass spectroscopy), were employed to test for fullerenes in samples from three different localities: two sites containing putative fullerenes (Sudbury Basin and Russian Karelia) and one new location (Oklo, Gabon). We confirm the presence of fullerenes (C60 and C70) in the Black Tuff of the Onaping Formation impact breccia in the Sudbury Basin, but we find no evidence of fullerenes in shungite samples from various locations in Russian Karelia. Analysis of carbonaceous substances associated with the natural nuclear fission reactors of Oklo yields no definitive signals for fullerenes. If fullerenes were produced during sustained nuclear fission at Oklo, then they are present below the detection limit (∼100 fmol), or they have destabilized since formation. Contrary to some expectations, geologic occurrences of fullerenes are not commonplace.

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