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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Scientists have created giant molecules — the size of bacteria

Scientists have created giant molecules — the size of bacteria | Amazing Science |

Mammoth molecules: Pairs of cesium atoms (illustrated) can be bonded together into molecules the size of bacteria, like the E. coli – shown here for scale. The outermost electron in each atom has been boosted to high energy, creating a state known as a Rydberg atom. These giant molecules may be useful in future for the development of quantum computers.


The molecules of unusual size are formed from pairs of Rydberg atoms — atoms with an electron that has been boosted into a high-energy state. Such electrons orbit far from their atom’s nucleus and, as a result, can feel the influence of faraway atoms.

To create the molecules, researchers cooled cesium atoms nearly to absolute zero, hitting them with lasers to form Rydberg atoms that bound together in pairs. These molecules are about one thousandth of a millimeter in size — a thousand times the size of a typical molecule — scientists report August 19 in Physical Review Letters.


“I think it’s fundamentally interesting and important because it’s such a curious thing,” says physicist David Petrosyan of the Institute of Electronic Structure & Laser at the Foundation for Research and Technology–Hellas in Heraklion, Greece. “The size of these molecules is huge.”


This is not the first time such molecules have been created, but the previous evidence was not clear-cut. “Before, maybe it wasn’t clear if this is really a molecule in the sense that it’s vibrating and rotating. It could have been just two atoms sitting therewith very weak interactions or no interactions,” says Johannes Deiglmayr, a physicist at ETH Zürich and a coauthor of the study.


Deiglmayr and collaborators measured the molecules’ binding energies — the energy that holds the two atoms together. Additionally, the scientists made detailed calculations to predict the molecules’ properties. These calculations were “extensive and seemed to match really well with their measurements,” says physicist Phillip Gould of the University of Connecticut in Storrs.


The result has practical implications, Petrosyan notes. In quantum computers that use atoms as quantum bits, scientists perform computations by allowing atoms to interact. Rydberg atoms can interact with their neighbors over long distances, and when bound together, the atoms stay put at a consistent distance from one another — a feature that may improve the accuracy of calculations.


Previously, researchers have used rubidium atoms to make another type of large molecule, formed from Rydberg atoms bonded with normal atoms. But these wouldn’t be useful for quantum computation, Petrosyan says, as they rely on a different type of bonding mechanism.

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„Artificial Atom“ Created in Graphene

„Artificial Atom“ Created in Graphene | Amazing Science |

In a tiny quantum prison, electrons behave quite differently as compared to their counterparts in free space. They can only occupy discrete energy levels, much like the electrons in an atom -- for this reason, such electron prisons are often called "artificial atoms." Artificial atoms may also feature properties beyond those of conventional ones, with the potential for many applications for example in quantum computing. Such additional properties have now been shown for artificial atoms in the carbon material graphene. The results have been published in the journal Nano Letters, the project was a collaboration of scientists from TU Wien (Vienna, Austria), RWTH Aachen (Germany) and the University of Manchester (GB).


"Artificial atoms open up new, exciting possibilities, because we can directly tune their properties," says Professor Joachim Burgdörfer (TU Wien, Vienna). In semiconductor materials such as gallium arsenide, trapping electrons in tiny confinements has already been shown to be possible. These structures are often referred to as "quantum dots." Just like in an atom, where the electrons can only circle the nucleus on certain orbits, electrons in these quantum dots are forced into discrete quantum states.

Even more interesting possibilities are opened up by using graphene, a material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms, which has attracted a lot of attention in the last few years.


"In most materials, electrons may occupy two different quantum states at a given energy. The high symmetry of the graphene lattice allows for four different quantum states. This opens up new pathways for quantum information processing and storage" explains Florian Libisch from TU Wien. However, creating well-controlled artificial atoms in graphene turned out to be extremely challenging.

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New kind of substances inhibits viruses and bacteria

New kind of substances inhibits viruses and bacteria | Amazing Science |

A new class of substances is effective against both the AIDS pathogen, HIV, and antibiotics-resistant MRSA bacteria. These two pathogensoften occur together. Scientists hope that it may be possible to control them with a single drug in the future. Scientists of the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS) developed so-called dual agents that inhibit the growth of both types of pathogens. They describe their findings in the renowned Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The HIPS is the Saarbrücken branch of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), which has its headquarters in Braunschweig. It was founded jointly by the HZI and Saarland University in 2009.


The human immunodeficiency virus HIV is one of the most dangerous and widespreadpathogens throughout the world. Some 37 million people are host to the virus and 1.2 million were killed by this disease in 2014 alone. Meanwhile, both the proliferation of the pathogen and the progression of the disease can be halted through a combination therapy, but the viruses show an increasing trend to develop resistance and no longer respond to the medications used against them.


The notorious MRSA bacteria, i.e. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains, show similar persistence as many common antibiotics have become ineffective. HIV patients, whose immune systemhas already been weakened by the disease, are often additionally afflicted by MRSA pathogens. These co-infections are very problematic and difficult to treat. "Resistance to the common therapies is quite widespread amongst both the viruses and the MRSA bacteria, which means that the co-infection is very difficult to control," explains HZI scientist Prof Rolf Hartmann, who is the head of the "Drug Design and Optimization" department at the HIPS. "In addition, it is necessary to carefully consider the interactions between the medications given to the patients."

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Scientists uncover origin of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compound

Scientists uncover origin of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compound | Amazing Science |

 Since the 1986 discovery of high-temperature superconductivity in copper-oxide compounds called cuprates, scientists have been trying to understand how these materials can conduct electricity without resistance at temperatures hundreds of degrees above the ultra-chilled temperatures required by conventional superconductors. Finding the mechanism behind this exotic behavior may pave the way for engineering materials that become superconducting at room temperature. Such a capability could enable lossless power grids, more affordable magnetically levitated transit systems, and powerful supercomputers, and change the way energy is produced, transmitted, and used globally.


Now, physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have an explanation for why the temperature at which cuprates become superconducting is so high. After growing and analyzing thousands of samples of a cuprate known as LSCO for the four elements it contains (lanthanum, strontium, copper, and oxygen), they determined that this "critical" temperature is controlled by the density of electron pairs—the number of electron pairs per unit area. This finding, described in a Nature paper published August 17, challenges the standard theory of superconductivity, which proposes that the critical temperature depends instead on the strength of the electron pairing interaction.


"Solving the enigma of high-temperature superconductivity has been the focus of condensed matter physics for more than 30 years," said Ivan Bozovic, a senior physicist in Brookhaven Lab's Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department who led the study. "Our experimental finding provides a basis for explaining the origin of high-temperature superconductivity in the cuprates—a basis that calls for an entirely new theoretical framework."


According to Bozovic, one of the reasons cuprates have been so difficult to study is because of the precise engineering required to generate perfect crystallographic samples that contain only the high-temperature superconducting phase.


"It is a materials science problem. Cuprates can have up to 50 atoms per unit cell and the elements can form hundreds of different compounds, likely resulting in a mixture of different phases," said Bozovic.


That's why Bozovic and his research team grew their more than 2,500 LSCO samples by using a custom-designed molecular beam epitaxy system that places single atoms onto a substrate, layer by layer. This system is equipped with advanced surface-science tools, such as those for absorption spectroscopy and electron diffraction, that provide real-time information about the surface morphology, thickness, chemical composition, and crystal structure of the resulting thin films.

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Names recommended for elements 115, 117 and 118

Names recommended for elements 115, 117 and 118 | Amazing Science |
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) opened a public comment period Wednesday for the recommended names of elements 115, 117 and 118.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia (JINR) were credited late last year for discovering elements 115 and 118. LLNL, JINR, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Vanderbilt University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas were credited with the discovery of element 117.


Moscovium (Mc) is provisionally recommended for element 115 in recognition of the Moscow region and honoring the ancient Russian land that is home to JINR. Moscow is the capital of the region.


Tennessine (Ts) is proposed for element 117, recognizing the contribution of Tennessee research centers ORNL, Vanderbilt and the University of Tennessee to superheavy element research.


The provisional name for element 118 is Oganesson (Og) in recognition of the pioneering contributions of Yuri Oganessian to superheavy element research. Oganessian's vision and determination created this opportunity for the significant expansion of the periodic table and knowledge of superheavy nuclei.


The provisional names will undergo a statutory period for public review before the names and symbols can be finally approved by the IUPAC Council—likely later this year.


"I'm proud of all of the hard work that this group has done over the years performing these experiments," said Dawn Shaughnessy," LLNL's principal investigator for the Heavy Element Group. "It's a huge accomplishment for the entire group that we are recognized for our efforts in accomplishing these highly difficult experiments and for the years of work it takes to successfully create a new chemical element."


LLNL teamed with JINR in 2004 to discover elements 113 and 115 (Japan was credited with the discovery of element 113). LLNL worked again with JINR in 2006 to discover element 118. The LLNL/JINR team then jointly worked with researchers from the Research Institute for Advanced Reactors (Dimitrovgrad), ORNL, Vanderbilt University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to discover element 117 in 2010.

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Scientists explain how the giant magnetoelectric effect occurs in bismuth ferrite

Scientists explain how the giant magnetoelectric effect occurs in bismuth ferrite | Amazing Science |

A team of scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), the National Research University of Electronic Technology (MIET), and the Prokhorov General Physics Institute have proposed a theoretical model that explains the unexpectedly high values of the linear magnetoelectric effect in BiFeO3 (bismuth ferrite) that have been observed in a number of experiments. The team also suggested a way of further enhancing the effect. The results of the study have been published in the journal Physical Review B.


One particular feature of bismuth ferrite is that in bulk samples, spins of Fe3+ iron ions are arranged in the form of a cycloid. This spin structure can be destroyed by a strong magnetic field or mechanical stress. Without a spin cycloid, bismuth ferrite exhibits a large linear magnetoelectric effect, and this effect was the focal point of the study.


"The theoretical description presented in the paper may be applicable to other multiferroics similar to BiFeO3. This will help in predicting the value of their magnetoelectric effect, which, in turn, will make it easier to find new and promising materials for industrial applications," says the head of MIPT's Laboratory of physics of magnetic heterostructures and spintronics for energy-saving information technologies, Prof. Anatoly Zvezdin.


Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously exhibit different ferroic orders, including magnetic, ferroelectric and/or ferroelastic. If there is an interaction between electric and magnetic subsystems in a material, a magnetoelectric (ME) effect may occur.


The magnetoelectric effect is when electric polarization occurs under the influence of an external magnetic field and magnetization occurs under the influence of an electric field. This allows an electric field to be used to control the magnetic properties of a material and a magnetic field to be used to control the electric properties. If the value of the ME effect is high (dozens or hundreds of times higher than normal), it is called a giant ME effect.


The main use of the magnetoelectric effect is in variable and static magnetic field sensors. These sensors are used in navigation systems, electric motors, and also in vehicle ignition systems. Compared to similar devices based on the Hall effect or magnetoresistance, sensors based on the ME effect are more sensitive (according to research, up to one million times more sensitive) and they are also relatively cheap to manufacture.

The ME effect offers exciting possibilities for the use of multiferroics in new types of magnetic memory, e.g. ROM -- read only memory. The ME effect could also potentially be used to create high-precision equipment for working with radiation in the microwave range, and to wirelessly transmit power to miniaturized electronic devices.


The subject of the study was bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) -- a highly promising multiferroic that is very promising in terms of its practical applications. It is planned to be used to create ultra energy-efficient magnetoelectric memory. In addition, bismuth ferrite exhibits a magnetoelectric effect at room temperature, while in most other magnetoelectrics an ME effect of this magnitude is only observed at extremely low temperatures (below -160 degrees Celsius).


Bismuth ferrite is an antiferromagnetic, which means that the magnetic moments of its magnetic sublattices (structures formed by atoms with the same parallel spins) cancel each other out, and the total magnetization of the material is close to zero. However, the spatial arrangement of the spins forms the same cycloidal spin structure.

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Researchers create artificial protein to control assembly of buckyballs

Researchers create artificial protein to control assembly of buckyballs | Amazing Science |

"This is a proof-of-principle study demonstrating that proteins can be used as effective vehicles for organizing nano-materials by design," says senior author Gevorg Grigoryan, an assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth. "If we learn to do this more generally - the programmable self-assembly of precisely organized molecular building blocks—this will lead to a range of new materials towards a host of applications, from medicine to energy."


The study appears in the journal in Nature Communications.

According to the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, scientists and engineers are finding a wide variety of ways to deliberately make materials at the nanoscale - or the atomic and molecular level—to take advantage of their enhanced properties such as higher strength, lighter weight, increased control of light spectrum and greater chemical reactivity than their larger-scale counterparts.


Proteins are "smart" molecules, encoded by our genes, which organize and orchestrate essentially all molecular processes in our cells. The goal of the new study was to create an artificial protein that would self-organize into a new material—an atomically periodic lattice of buckminster fullerene molecules.


Buckminster fullerene (buckyball for short) is a sphere-like molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms shaped like a soccer ball. Buckyballs have an array of unusual properties, which have excited scientists for several decades because of their potential applications. Buckyballs are currently used in nanotechology due to their high heat resistance and electrical superconductivity, but the molecule is difficult to organize in desired ways, which hampers its use in the development of novel materials.


In their new research, Grigoryan and his colleagues show that their artificial protein does interact with buckyball and indeed does organize it into a lattice. Further, they determined the 3-dimensional structure of this lattice, which represents the first ever atomistic view of a protein/buckyball complex."Learning to engineer self-assembly would enable the precise organization of molecules by design to create matter with tailored properties," Grigoryan says.


"In this research, we demonstrate that proteins can direct the self-assembly of buckminsterfullerene into ordered superstructures. Further, excitingly, we have observed this protein/buckyball lattice conducts electricity, something that the protein-alone lattice does not do. Thus, we are beginning to see emergent material behaviors that can arise from combing the fascinating properties of buckyball and the abilities of proteins to organize matter at the atomic scale. Taken together, our findings suggest a new means of organizing fullerene molecules into a rich variety of lattices to generate new properties by design."

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The Atom Without Properties

The Atom Without Properties | Amazing Science |
The microscopic world is governed by the rules of quantum mechanics, where the properties of a particle can be completely undetermined and yet strongly correlated with those of other particles. Physicists from the University of Basel have observed these so-called Bell correlations for the first time between hundreds of atoms. Their findings are published in the scientific journal Science.


Everyday objects possess properties independently of each other and regardless of whether we observe them or not. Einstein famously asked whether the moon still exists if no one is there to look at it; we answer with a resounding yes. This apparent certainty does not exist in the realm of small particles. The location, speed or magnetic moment of an atom can be entirely indeterminate and yet still depend greatly on the measurements of other distant atoms.


With the (false) assumption that atoms possess their properties independently of measurements and independently of each other, a so-called Bell inequality can be derived. If it is violated by the results of an experiment, it follows that the properties of the atoms must be interdependent. This is described as Bell correlations between atoms, which also imply that each atom takes on its properties only at the moment of the measurement. Before the measurement, these properties are not only unknown -- they do not even exist.


A team of researchers led by professors Nicolas Sangouard and Philipp Treutlein from the University of Basel, along with colleagues from Singapore, have now observed these Bell correlations for the first time in a relatively large system, specifically among 480 atoms in a Bose-Einstein condensate. Earlier experiments showed Bell correlations with a maximum of four light particles or 14 atoms. The results mean that these peculiar quantum effects may also play a role in larger systems.


In order to observe Bell correlations in systems consisting of many particles, the researchers first had to develop a new method that does not require measuring each particle individually – which would require a level of control beyond what is currently possible. The team succeeded in this task with the help of a Bell inequality that was only recently discovered. The Basel researchers tested their method in the lab with small clouds of ultracold atoms cooled with laser light down to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. The atoms in the cloud constantly collide, causing their magnetic moments to become slowly entangled. When this entanglement reaches a certain magnitude, Bell correlations can be detected. Author Roman Schmied explains: “One would expect that random collisions simply cause disorder. Instead, the quantum-mechanical properties become entangled so strongly that they violate classical statistics.”

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Chemical composition of dust from beyond the solar system analyzed

Chemical composition of dust from beyond the solar system analyzed | Amazing Science |
A Heidelberg-designed dust detector on the Cassini space probe -- known as the cosmic dust analyser (CDA) -- has identified several extremely rare and minuscule particles of interstellar dust from outside our solar system, and examined their chemical composition. Surprisingly it turns out that the different dust particles are very similar in composition and have collected the whole element mix of the cosmos. The experts therefore suspect that dust is continually destroyed, reformed and thereby homogenised in the "witch's cauldron" of outer space. The results of an international research team, including scientists from the Institute of Earth Sciences and the Klaus Tschira Laboratory for Cosmochemistry of Heidelberg University, are published in "Science."

"Interstellar dust is one of the last bastions of the unknown in space, its individual particles being only about 200 nanometres in size and very hard to find," explains Prof. Dr. Mario Trieloff, earth scientist from Heidelberg University. The dust is part of the interstellar material consisting of gas and helium, as well as heavy metals, and which can arise from the condensation processes of stars and planets. These particles are the raw material that were the main building blocks for Earth and other terrestrial planets.

When it comes to studying interstellar dust, science has so far depended on particles reaching our solar system. The Stardust space probe was already able to capture particles of the very weak flux crossing our solar system. "But these particles were unusually large, so the research findings are possibly not representative," Prof. Trieloff says. By contrast, the Cassini probe could identify 36 particles of interstellar dust among millions of planetary dust particles. Furthermore the CDA is in a position to analyse them on the spot with the assistance of mass spectrometry. This has enabled much more precise results than before.

Dr. Frank Postberg, on a Heisenberg grant at the Institute for Earth Science, notes that mass spectrometric measurements can now be made for the first time on "a statistically significant quantity of such dust particles." This process had only become possible through a complex series of tests conducted in Heidelberg to calibrate laboratory models of the CDA. To achieve this aim, silicate dust had to be accelerated in the laboratory to upwards of 40 km a second, which is roughly the speed of interstellar dust.

"The result of the measurements was truly amazing," Dr. Postberg reports. "The 36 particles of interstellar origin, that are very similar in their composition, contain a mix of the most important rock-forming elements -- magnesium, iron, silicon and calcium -- in average cosmic abundance.
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Compounds containing an all-metal antiaromatic ring isolated for the first time

Compounds containing an all-metal antiaromatic ring isolated for the first time | Amazing Science |

An international research team has prepared a set of lanthanide antimony clusters that represent the first isolable compounds containing an all-metal antiaromatic ring. The achievement continues to expand the concept of aromaticity beyond its humble beginnings 150 years ago.


Researchers including Xue Min and Zhong-Ming Sun of Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry and Ivan A. Popov and Alexander I. Boldyrev of Utah State University created a series of anions, [Ln(Sb4)3]3–, where Ln is La, Y, Ho, Er, or Lu. They made the anions by treating lanthanide benzyl complexes with the Zintl cluster complex K5Sb4 in pyridine solvent and then isolating them as potassium cryptand salts.


The concept of antiaromaticity has a storied history. In 1865, German chemist August Kekulé proposed the concept of aromaticity to explain the unusual properties of benzene, a planar carbon ring that exhibits high stability and low reactivity. In 1931, German chemist Erich Hückel added to the definition that aromatic compounds have a delocalized 4n + 2 π-electron system.


In 1965, on the centennial of Kekulé’s concept, Columbia University’s Ronald Breslowproposed the idea of antiaromaticity—the antonym of aromaticity—to characterize planar carbon rings with a 4-electron system that exhibit low stability and high reactivity.


Aromaticity and antiaromaticity were originally thought to be purely the domain of organic chemistry. But over the past 20 years chemists have shown that this organic boundary is flexible. In 1995, Gregory H. Robinson and coworkers of the University of Georgia prepared a phenyl-substituted Ga3 ring with 2 π electrons isolated as a sodium salt, introducing the concept of metalloaromaticity.


In 2003, Boldyrev’s group in collaboration with Lai-Sheng Wang, now at Brown University, followed suit by reporting Li3Al4–, which includes an antiaromatic Al44– ring containing 4 πelectrons. However, the gaseous molecule was created in a laser-based experiment and couldn’t be trapped in a condensed state.


With the [Ln(Sb4)3]3– series, chemists now have the first examples of isolable inorganic antiaromatic compounds. As a key feature, each Sb4 ring stabilized by the lanthanide metal has 4 delocalized π electrons. The Sb4 unit is analogous to cyclobutadiene, Boldyrev says, which is the quintessential antiaromatic organic compound.


“Antiaromaticity in these all-metal systems is very nice,” Breslow tells C&EN. “It is gratifying to see that our proposal, which was quite unexpected when we first made it for organic systems, has such generality.”


Further advances of aromaticity and antiaromaticity into metal territory will be valuable for understanding the properties of metal clusters, bulk metals, and alloys, Boldyrev and Sun add, which could be handy for making thin-film electronic materials.


“From a conceptual perspective, this is another example of the concept of aromaticity—in this case antiaromaticity or antimetalloaromaticity—being extended beyond the realm of carbon,” Robinson says. “More important, taking all of this work into consideration, aromaticity and metalloaromaticity seem to be foundational principles throughout the whole of chemistry.”

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Brilliant new blue pigment discovered by accident

Brilliant new blue pigment discovered by accident | Amazing Science |

An accidental discovery in a laboratory at Oregon State University has apparently solved a quest that over thousands of years has absorbed the energies of ancient Egyptians, the Han dynasty in China, Mayan cultures and more – the creation of a near-perfect blue pigment.

Through much of recorded human history, people around the world have sought inorganic compounds that could be used to paint things blue, often with limited success. Most had environmental or durability issues. Cobalt blue, developed in France in the early 1800s, can be carcinogenic. Prussian blue can release cyanide. Other blue pigments are not stable when exposed to heat or acidic conditions.

But chemists at OSU have discovered new compounds based on manganese that should address all of those concerns. They are safer to produce, much more durable, and should lead to more environmentally benign blue pigments than any being used now or in the past.  They can survive at extraordinarily high temperatures and don’t fade after a week in an acid bath.

The findings were just published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and a patent has been applied for on the composition of the compound and the process used to create it. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. “Basically, this was an accidental discovery,” said Mas Subramanian, the Milton Harris Professor of Materials Science in the OSU Department of Chemistry. “We were exploring manganese oxides for some interesting electronic properties they have, something that can be both ferroelectric and ferromagnetic at the same time. Our work had nothing to do with looking for a pigment. “Then one day a graduate student who is working in the project was taking samples out of a very hot furnace while I was walking by, and it was blue, a very beautiful blue,” he said. “I realized immediately that something amazing had happened.”

What had happened, the researchers said, was that at about 1,200 degrees centigrade – almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – this otherwise innocuous manganese oxide turned into a vivid blue compound that could be used to make a pigment able to resist heat and acid, be environmentally benign and cheap to produce from a readily available mineral.

The newest – and possibly the best – blue pigment in world history was born, due to manganese ions being structured in an unusual “trigonal bipyramidal coordination” in the presence of extreme heat.

“Ever since the early Egyptians developed some of the first blue pigments, the pigment industry has been struggling to address problems with safety, toxicity and durability,” Subramanian said.

The pigment may eventually find uses in everything from inkjet printers to automobiles, fine art or house paint, researchers say. The scientists said in their journal article that the new compound yields “a surprisingly intense and bright blue color,” and they have outlined its structure and characteristics in detail. Collaborating on the work were researchers in the Materials Department at the University of California/Santa Barbara.

Via Levin Chin
Brett Weathers's curator insight, March 12, 9:45 PM

New blue pigment, yay! 


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Four new elements earn permanent seats on the periodic table

Four new elements earn permanent seats on the periodic table | Amazing Science |

The seventh row of the periodic table is officially full now. On December 30, 2015, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced that a Russian-U.S. collaboration had attained sufficient evidence to claim the discovery of elements 115, 117 and 118. IUPAC awarded credit for the discovery of element 113 to scientists at RIKEN in Wako, Japan (SN Online: 9/27/12). Both groups synthesized the elements by slamming lighter nuclei into each other and tracking the decay of the radioactive superheavy elements that followed.

Researchers at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which are among the institutions credited with elements 115, 117 and 118, had also laid claim to element 113 after experiments in 2004 (SN: 2/7/04, p. 84) and 2007. But garnering recognition for the three other elements softened the blow, says Dawn Shaughnessy, who leads the experimental nuclear and radiochemistry group at Livermore. “I’m personally very happy with IUPAC’s decision,” she says.

Published reports on the newly recognized elements will appear in early 2016, says IUPAC executive director Lynn Soby. Official recognition of the elements means that their discoverers earn the right to suggest names and symbols. Element 113 will be the first element discovered and named by researchers in Asia.

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Researchers find way to produce large-area graphene 100 times cheaper

Researchers find way to produce large-area graphene 100 times cheaper | Amazing Science |
Graphene has been hailed as a wonder material since it was first isolated from graphite in 2004. Graphene is just a single atom thick but it is flexible, stronger than steel, and capable of efficiently conducting heat and electricity.

However, widespread industrial adoption of graphene has so far been limited by the expense of producing it. Affordable graphene production could lead to a wide range of new technologies reaching the market, including synthetic skin capable of providing sensory feedback to people with limb prostheses.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have now found a way to produce large sheets of graphene using the same cheap type of copper used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries found in many household devices.

In a new paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports, a team led by Dr Ravinder Dahiya explain how they have been able to produce large-area graphene around 100 times cheaper than ever before. Graphene is often produced by a process known as chemical vapour deposition, or CVD, which turns gaseous reactants into a film of graphene on a special surface known as a substrate.

The research team used a similar process to create high-quality graphene across the surface of commercially-available copper foils of the type often used as the negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries. The ultra-smooth surface of the copper provided an excellent bed for the graphene to form upon.

They found that the graphene they produced offered a stark improvement in the electrical and optical performance of transistors which they made compared to similar materials produced from the older process.

Dr Dahiya, of the University of Glasgow's School of Engineering, said: "The commercially-available copper we used in our process retails for around one dollar per square metre, compared to around $115 for a similar amount of the copper currently used in graphene production. This more expensive form of copper often required preparation before it can be used, adding further to the cost of the process.

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Scientists trick solid into acting as a liquid

Scientists trick solid into acting as a liquid | Amazing Science |

When chemistry graduate student Demetrius A. Vazquez-Molina took COF-5, a nano sponge-like, non-flammable manmade material and pressed it into pellets the size of a pinkie nail, he noticed something odd when he looked at its X-ray diffraction pattern. The material's internal crystal structure arranged in a strange pattern. He took the lab results to his chemistry professor Fernando Uribe-Romo, who suggested he turn the pellets on their side and run the X-ray analysis again.

The result: The crystal structures within the material fell into precise patterns that allow for lithium ions to flow easily - like in a liquid.


The findings, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society earlier this summer, are significant because a liquid is necessary for some electronics and other energy uses. But using current liquid materials sometimes is problematic.

For example, take lithium-ion batteries. They are among the best batteries on the market, charging everything from phones to hover boards. But they tend to be big and bulky because a liquid must be used within the battery to transfer lithium ions from one side of the battery to the other. This process stores and disperses energy. That reaction creates heat, which has resulted in cell phones exploding, hover boards bursting into flames, and even the grounding of some airplanes a few years ago that relied on lithium batteries for some of its functions.

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Could Hydrogen Soon Be Classed as a Precious Metal?

Could Hydrogen Soon Be Classed as a Precious Metal? | Amazing Science |

Hydrogen is the first chemical element listed in the periodic table and has the atomic number of 1.  Up until now, hydrogen has usually been classed as a gas or liquid, but scientists are now extremely close to producing the first ever sample of solid metallic hydrogen. Their progress so far has been achieved through the use of powerful lasers, electrical impulses, and other state-of-the-art equipment.


As research continues, scientists uncover more about the properties of hydrogen and how it can benefit us as humans. It is a simple element that has the ability to change phases based on temperature and pressure and could be the next big superconductor.  Others that are currently used on MRIs and the Large Hadron Collider only work when they are cooled to extremely low temperatures. But with metallic hydrogen, it has the potential to act as a superconductor just at room temperature.


Various techniques and experiments are being conducted at the moment to try and be the first to produce metallic hydrogen successfully.  One of the ways that are being trialed involves a diamond anvil.  Here two tapered diamonds are used to exert intense pressure onto the sample of hydrogen, but this achieves the fourth phase of solid hydrogen, not metallic hydrogen, so more work is still needed here.  Others have begun to use lasers to blast samples of hydrogen, therefore increasing the pressure and temperature temporarily.


Although all of these experiments showed some evidence of metallic behavior, it was only liquid metal.  Other techniques involve using intense bursts of electrical power, as the Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratories, to force a metal plate into the hydrogen samples.  Scientists are confident that metallic hydrogen exists in the solar system, it is now just a case of reproducing it.

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Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity | Amazing Science |

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity. While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.


A charge density wave (CDW) is a state of matter where electrons bunch together in a repeating pattern, like a standing wave of surface of water. Superconductivity and charge density waves share a common origin, often co-exist, and can compete for dominance in certain materials.


Conventional CDWs and superconductivity both arise from electron-phonon interactions, the interaction of electrons with the vibrations of the crystal lattice. Electron-electron interactions are the likely origin of unconventional, high-temperature superconductivity such as found in copper- and iron-based compounds.


Unconventional, electron-electron driven CDW are extremely rare and its discovery here is important, because the material showed an 'extraordinary' increase of CDW transition temperature from 130K (-143C) to 220K (-53C) and a huge increase of energy gap at the surface.


Both are properties essential for CDW and high-temperature superconductivity, explained Adam Kaminski, Ames Laboratory scientist and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State University.


"This was an accidental but very exciting discovery," said Kaminski. "We were studying this material because its one-dimensional structure makes it quite interesting. We saw strange things happening to the electronic band structure, but when we looked at the surface we were stunned by extraordinary enhancement of transition temperature and energy gap."

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Nucleus of Barium-144 is Surprisingly Pear Shaped

Nucleus of Barium-144 is Surprisingly Pear Shaped | Amazing Science |
Experiments confirm that the barium-144 nucleus is pear shaped and hint that this asymmetry is more pronounced than previously thought.


Most nuclei are round or slightly squashed, like a football. But in certain nuclei, protons and neutrons arrange in a more pear-shaped configuration. Only a handful of these distorted nuclei have been seen in experiments. Now, researchers have confirmed that barium-144 (144Ba) is a member of this exclusive club. Moreover, it may be more distorted than theorists expected, a finding that could challenge current nuclear structure models.


The most direct test of whether a nucleus is pear shaped is to look for so-called octupole transitions between nuclear states, which are suppressed in more symmetric nuclei. Using this method, researchers have confirmed that radium-224, radium-226, and a few other heavy nuclei are pear shaped. For decades, theorists have predicted that 144Ba , a relatively light nucleus, should also be asymmetric. But until now, there were no techniques that allowed a sufficient number of the short-lived barium isotopes to be prepared and studied before they decayed.


A team of scientists from the US, the UK, and France used Argonne National Lab’s CARIBU fission source and ATLAS accelerator to prepare a beam of 144Ba, which they collided with a lead foil to kick the nuclei into excited states. By analyzing the spectrum of gamma rays emitted by the nuclei, the researchers found that the strengths of several octupole transitions—and hence the distortion—were more than twice the values predicted by nuclear structure models. The finding might mean that these models need to be revised. But it’s too soon to say because the experimental uncertainty in the measured distortion is still large.


This research is published in Physical Review Letters.

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Physicists measure van der Waals forces of individual atoms for the first time

Physicists measure van der Waals forces of individual atoms for the first time | Amazing Science |

Physicists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the University of Basel have succeeded in measuring the very weak van der Waals forces between individual atoms for the first time. To do this, they fixed individual noble gas atoms within a molecular network and determined the interactions with a single xenon atom that they had positioned at the tip of an atomic force microscope. As expected, the forces varied according to the distance between the two atoms; but, in some cases, the forces were several times larger than theoretically calculated. These findings are reported by the international team of researchers in Nature Communications.


Van der Waals forces act between non-polar atoms and molecules. Although they are very weak in comparison to chemical bonds, they are hugely significant in nature. They play an important role in all processes relating to cohesion, adhesion, friction or condensation and are, for example, essential for a gecko's climbing skills.


Van der Waals interactions arise due to a temporary redistribution of electrons in the atoms and molecules. This results in the occasional formation of dipoles, which in turn induce a redistribution of electrons in closely neighboring molecules. Due to the formation of dipoles, the two molecules experience a mutual attraction, which is referred to as a van der Waals interaction. This only exists temporarily but is repeatedly re-formed. The individual forces are the weakest binding forces that exist in nature, but they add up to reach magnitudes that we can perceive very clearly on the macroscopic scale - as in the example of the gecko.


To measure the van der Waals forces, scientists in Basel used a low-temperature atomic force microscope with a single xenon atom on the tip. They then fixed the individual argon, krypton and xenon atoms in a molecular network. This network, which is self-organizing under certain experimental conditions, contains so-called nano-beakers of copper atoms in which the noble gas atoms are held in place like a bird egg. Only with this experimental set-up is it possible to measure the tiny forces between microscope tip and noble gas atom, as a pure metal surface would allow the noble gas atoms to slide around.


The researchers compared the measured forces with calculated values and displayed them graphically. As expected from the theoretical calculations, the measured forces fell dramatically as the distance between the atoms increased. While there was good agreement between measured and calculated curve shapes for all of the noble gases analyzed, the absolute measured forces were larger than had been expected from calculations according to the standard model. Above all for xenon, the measured forces were larger than the calculated values by a factor of up to two.

Via Mariaschnee, CineversityTV
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Biological evolution was preceded by a long phase of chemical evolution

Biological evolution was preceded by a long phase of chemical evolution | Amazing Science |

Biological evolution was preceded by a long phase of chemical evolution during which precursors of biopolymers accumulated. LMU chemists have discovered an efficient mechanism for the prebiotic synthesis of a vital class of such compounds.


How did life originate on Earth and what were its chemical building-blocks? One possible source of answers to these questions can be found in outer space. On the surface of comets planetary scientists have detected simple organic molecules that could also have been available on the young Earth – either because they were present in the material from which our planet was formed or were subsequently delivered by comets or meteorites. LMU chemist Thomas Carell and members of his research group have now shown that, under the conditions that prevailed on the young Earth, these simple molecules could indeed have served as precursors for the synthesis of one class of molecules that is an integral part of all forms of life on Earth. In addition, they have validated a plausible reaction mechanism for the production of these compounds. The new findings appear in the leading journal Science (2016).


Before self-replicating systems could be assembled, prebiotic chemistry must first have given rise to the subunits that form the basis for the complex biopolymers found in all modern organisms – the proteins and the nucleic acids that specify their structures. Unfortunately, little is known about the range of small organic compounds that was present on the young Earth. However, recent discoveries made by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to the comet 67/P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have given us some new leads. When Rosetta’s lander module Philae first made contact with the comet’s surface, it bounced off, and dust was wafted into its mass spectrometer. The ensuing analysis enabled mission scientists to identify 16 simple organics in the sample. In addition to water and carbon monoxide, the catalog included a number of nitrogen-containing components, such as formamide and hydrogen cyanide.


“We have now looked for ways in which these very simple substances could have given rise to the complex organic building-blocks of life under conditions similar to those that are thought to have existed on the young Earth. In particular, we were interested in the synthesis of key components of RNA,” Carell explains. The origin of RNA is central to an understanding of prebiotic chemistry. This is because RNA is potentially capable of catalyzing its own synthesis and facilitating several other biochemical reactions, and also possesses the capacity to store genetic information. A preliminary analysis of possible synthetic routes led the LMU team to a reaction scheme - the so-called FaPy pathway - that could have enabled purines to form under prebiotic conditions. Two of the five types of nucleotide bases that encode the genetic information stored in RNA and DNA are purines. They also form part of the molecules ATP und GTP, both of which serve as energy sources for biochemical reactions and as molecular switches in the control of protein function.


The FaPy pathway begins with the attachment of formamide to aminopyrimidines, nitrogen-containing rings which can be produced by a series of reactions between hydrogen cyanide molecules (and are themselves closely related to the other three bases found in nucleic acids). This gives rise to formamidopyrimidines, hence the acronym FaPy for the pathway as a whole. A subsequent sequence of reaction steps converts formamidopyridines into the purines adenine and guanine, and several of their biologically important derivatives. “Some 70% of the products of the FaPy pathway are purines, with adenosine – an important subunit of RNA – accounting for about 20%. With the FaPy mechanism, we have thus discovered a synthetic pathway that provides central biochemical components of life in high yield and with high specificity,” Carell explains. “So the FaPy mechanism constitutes an experimentally attested scenario that can explain how the process of chemical evolution could have proceeded during the phase prior to the formation of the first cells.”

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Water molecules confined in nanochannels exhibit quantum tunneling behavior

Water molecules confined in nanochannels exhibit quantum tunneling behavior | Amazing Science |
Water molecules confined in nanochannels exhibit tunneling behavior that smears out the positions of the hydrogen atoms into a pair of corrugated rings.


Tunneling is a quantum effect that lets particles go through microscopic barriers in a single bound. A study of water trapped in an emerald-like crystal reveals tunneling of water molecules among multiple orientations, so that each molecule is essentially in six configurations at once. The researchers showed with neutron scattering experiments that the tunneling causes the water’s hydrogen atoms to spread out into ring-like distributions. This new form of water is a more symmetric structure that is predicted to have zero electric dipole moment—the property that normally allows water to form hydrogen bonds and perform well as a solvent.


Tunneling occurs when an object traverses a barrier without having enough energy to do so classically. Certain molecules can tunnel among rotational orientations. A representative example is the methyl group (CH3)(CH3), which is a carbon atom bound to three hydrogens in a symmetric pyramid configuration. Electric forces from nearby atoms generate repulsion that resists any rotation around the pyramid axis. However, the hydrogens can tunnel through these barriers from one pyramid corner to the next. This discrete hopping couples together rotational orientations, causing an observable splitting of the ground state into multiple levels with slightly different energies.


 Recently, optical spectroscopy revealed energy splitting in the terahertz spectrum of water molecules in the gemstone beryl, suggesting that the molecule is hopping among multiple states [1]. The crystal structure of beryl(Be3Al2Si6O18)(Be3Al2Si6O18) contains channels with hexagonal cross-sections that can trap water molecules. The channels periodically narrow into “cages” roughly 0.5 nanometers wide by 0.9 nanometers long and only big enough for one water molecule. The previously observed splitting suggested that the confined water was rotationally tunneling inside the channels, but a more direct test was necessary. Now Alexander Kolesnikov from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and his colleagues have performed a series of neutron scattering measurements on a beryl sample containing water.

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New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells

New world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells | Amazing Science |
Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.


Polymer solar cells have in recent years emerged as a low cost alternative to silicon solar cells. In order to obtain high efficiency, fullerenes are usually required in polymer solar cells to separate charge carriers. However, fullerenes are unstable under illumination, and form large crystals at high temperatures.


Now, a team of chemists led by Professor Jianhui Hou at the CAS set a new world record for fullerene-free polymer solar cells by developing a unique combination of a polymer called PBDB-T and a small molecule called ITIC. With this combination, the sun's energy is converted with an efficiency of 11%, a value that strikes most solar cells with fullerenes, and all without fullerenes.


Feng Gao, together with his colleagues Olle Inganäs and Deping Qian at Linköping University, have characterized the loss spectroscopy of photovoltage (Voc), a key figure for solar cells, and proposed approaches to further improving the device performance. The two research groups are now presenting their results in the high-profile journal Advanced Materials.


We have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve a high efficiency without using fullerene, and that such solar cells are also highly stable to heat. Because solar cells are working under constant solar radiation, good thermal stability is very important, said Feng Gao, a physicist at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linköping University.


The combination of high efficiency and good thermal stability suggest that polymer solar cells, which can be easily manufactured using low-cost roll-to-roll printing technology, now come a step closer to commercialization, said Feng Gao.

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Route to Carbyne: Scientists Create Ultra-Long 1D Carbon Chains

Route to Carbyne: Scientists Create Ultra-Long 1D Carbon Chains | Amazing Science |

Even in its elemental form, the high bond versatility of carbon allows for many different well-known materials, including diamond and graphite. A single layer of graphite, named graphene, can then be rolled or folded into carbon nanotubes or fullerenes, respectively. To date, Nobel prizes have been awarded for both graphene and fullerenes.


Although the existence of carbyne, an infinitely long carbon chain, was proposed in 1885 by Adolf von Baeyer, scientists have not yet been able to synthesize this material. Von Baeyer even suggested that carbyne (also known as linear acetylenic carbon) would remain elusive as its high reactivity would always lead to its immediate destruction. Nevertheless, carbon chains of increasing length have been successfully synthesized over the last five decades, with a record of around 100 carbon atoms.

To grow even longer carbon chains – up to 6,000 carbon atoms long – on a bulk scale, Dr. Pichler and his colleagues used the confined space inside a double-walled carbon nanotube as a nano-reactor.


“The direct experimental proof of confined ultra-long linear carbon chains, which are more than an order of magnitude longer than the longest proven chains so far, can be seen as a promising step towards the final goal of unraveling the ‘holy grail’ of carbon allotropes, carbyne,” said team member Lei Shi, from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Vienna. “Carbyne is very stable inside double-walled carbon nanotubes,” the scientists said. “This property is crucial for its eventual application in future materials and devices.”


“According to theoretical models, carbyne’s mechanical properties exceed all known materials, outperforming both graphene and diamond.”


“Carbyne’s electrical properties suggest novel nanoelectronic applications in quantum spin transport and magnetic semiconductors.” The results were published online April 4, 2016 in the journal Nature Materials ( preprint).

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Molecular surgery stitches up water dimer in fullerene cage | Chemistry World

Molecular surgery stitches up water dimer in fullerene cage | Chemistry World | Amazing Science |

First isolation of dimer to aid fundamental studies of hydrogen bonding. Two molecules of water have been trapped inside a fullerene cage allowing the formation of a hydrogen bond between the two molecules to be observed. It is the first time that the elusive dimer of water has been isolated and could open the way to fundamental studies of hydrogen bonding in water. The technique could also be used to study the interaction of pairs of other species at the single-molecule level, the researchers suggest.


‘Monomers and dimers of water are rare,’ says Yasujiro Murata of Kyoto University, Japan, who led the research. ‘A water molecule wants to catch another water molecule to give a dimer, and at the same time the water dimer dissociates into two water molecules. The water dimer also wants to catch another water molecule to give a trimer. Following these processes, water in the gas phase exists as a mixture of oligomers: monomers and dimers are rare.’


In the past, a limited number of single atoms and molecules have been trapped in C60 fullerenes, including rare gases, dihydrogen and water. Murata’s team wanted to see if they could trap a single water molecule in the slightly larger cavity of a C70 fullerene.


To do this they used a ‘molecular surgical’ method to peel open part of the outer shell of the fullerene through the stepwise cleavage of targeted C=C bonds of the cage, to create an opening large enough for water to enter. They then exposed the ruptured cages to water at high temperature and pressures to try to force a single water molecule into the cage, before selective restoration of the C=C bonds to trap it.


The team used HPLC to separate the water-containing cages from those that remained empty. To their surprise, they found that while some cages had trapped a single water molecule, as expected, others had captured two water molecules. ‘We knew that the inner space of C60 was not large enough for two water molecules, and before this study we thought that was also true for C70,’ says Murata. ‘We were very surprised to observe cages containing two trapped water molecules.’

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Single molecule detection of contaminants, explosives or diseases now possible

Single molecule detection of contaminants, explosives or diseases now possible | Amazing Science |

A technique that combines the ultrasensitivity of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) with a slippery surface invented by Penn State researchers will make it feasible to detect single molecules of a number of chemical and biological species from gaseous, liquid or solid samples. This combination of slippery surface and laser-based spectroscopy will open new applications in analytical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, environmental monitoring and national security.

The researchers, led by Tak-Sing Wong, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and the Wormley Family Early Career Professor in Engineering, call their invention SLIPSERS, which is a combination of Wong’s slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces (SLIPS), a biologically inspired surface based on the Asian pitcher plant, and SERS.

“We have been trying to develop a sensor platform that allows us to detect chemicals or biomolecules at a single-molecule level whether they are dispersed in air, liquid phase, or bound to a solid,” Wong said. “Being able to identify a single molecule is already pretty difficult. Being able to detect those molecules in all three phases, that is really challenging.”

Wong needed the help of postdoctoral fellow Shikuan Yang to combine SERS and SLIPS into a single process. Yang was trained in Raman spectroscopy in the characterization laboratory of Penn State’s Materials Research Institute. His expertise in the SERS technique and Wong’s knowledge of SLIPS enabled them to develop the SLIPSERS technology. Their work appeared online on December 31, 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Researchers find new phase of carbon, make diamond at room temperature

Researchers find new phase of carbon, make diamond at room temperature | Amazing Science |
Researchers from North Carolina State University have discovered a new phase of solid carbon, called Q-carbon, which is distinct from the known phases of graphite and diamond. They have also developed a technique for using Q-carbon to make diamond-related structures at room temperature and at ambient atmospheric pressure in air.

Phases are distinct forms of the same material. Graphite is one of the solid phases of carbon; diamond is another. "We've now created a third solid phase of carbon," says Jay Narayan, the John C. Fan, Distinguished Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at NC State and lead author of three papers describing the work.

"The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets." Q-carbon has some unusual characteristics. For one thing, it is ferromagnetic – which other solid forms of carbon are not. "We didn't even think that was possible," Narayan says.

In addition, Q-carbon is harder than diamond, and glows when exposed to even low levels of energy. "Q-carbon's strength and low work-function – its willingness to release electrons – make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies," Narayan says. But Q-carbon can also be used to create a variety of single-crystal diamond objects.

To understand that, you have to understand the process for creating Q-carbon. Researchers start out with a substrate such as sapphire, glass or a plastic polymer. The substrate is then coated with amorphous carbon – elemental carbon that, unlike graphite or diamond, does not have a regular, well-defined crystalline structure. The carbon is then hit with a single laser pulse lasting approximately 200 nanoseconds. During this pulse, the temperature of the carbon is raised to 4,000 Kelvin (or around 3,727 degrees Celsius) and then rapidly cooled. This operation takes place at one atmosphere – the same pressure as the surrounding air. The end result is a film of Q-carbon, and researchers can control the process to make films between 20 nanometers and 500 nanometers thick.

By using different substrates and changing the duration of the laser pulse, the researchers can also control how quickly the carbon cools. By changing the rate of cooling, they are able to create diamond structures within the Q-carbon. "We can create diamond nanoneedles or microneedles, nanodots, or large-area diamond films, with applications for drug delivery, industrial processes and for creating high-temperature switches and power electronics," Narayan says. "These diamond objects have a single-crystalline structure, making them stronger than polycrystalline materials. And it is all done at room temperature and at ambient atmosphere – we're basically using a laser like the ones used for laser eye surgery. So, not only does this allow us to develop new applications, but the process itself is relatively inexpensive."

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