Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Geoscientists Predict New Compounds Could Change Our View of What Planets are Made Of

Findings establish counterintuitive potential planet-forming materials

A team of researchers led by Artem R. Oganov, a professor of theoretical crystallography in the Department of Geosciences, has made a startling prediction that challenges existing chemical models and current understanding of planetary interiors — magnesium oxide, a major material in the formation of planets, can exist in several different compositions.

The team’s findings, “Novel stable compounds in the Mg-O system under high pressure,” are published in the online edition of Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. The existence of these compounds — which are radically different from traditionally known or expected materials — could have important implications.

“For decades it was believed that MgO is the only thermodynamically stable magnesium oxide, and it was widely believed to be one of the main materials of the interiors of the Earth and other planets,” said Qiang Zhu, the lead author of this paper and a postdoctoral student in the Oganov laboratory.

“We have predicted that two new compounds, MgO2 and Mg3O2, become stable at pressures above 1 and 5 million atmospheres, respectively. This not only overturns standard chemical intuition but also implies that planets may be made of totally unexpected materials. We have predicted conditions (pressure, temperature, oxygen fugacity) necessary for stability of these new materials, and some planets, though probably not the Earth, may offer such conditions,” added Oganov.

In addition to their general chemical interest, MgO2 and Mg3O2 might be important planet-forming minerals in deep interiors of some planets. Planets with these compounds would most likely be the size of Earth or larger.

The team explained how its paper predicted the structures in detail by analyzing the electronic structure and chemical bonding for these compounds. For example, Mg3O2 is forbidden within “textbook chemistry,” where the Mg ions can only have charges “+2,” O ions are “-2, and the only allowed compound is MgO. In the “oxygen-deficient” semiconductor Mg3O2, there are strong electronic concentrations in the “empty space” of the structure that play the role of negatively charged ions and stabilize this material. Curiously, magnesium becomes a d-element (i.e. a transition metal) under pressure, and this almost alchemical transformation is responsible for the existence of the “forbidden” compound Mg3O2.

The findings were made using unique methods of structure prediction, developed in the Oganov laboratory. “These methods have led to the discovery of many new phenomena and are used by a number of companies for systematically discovering novel materials on the computer — a much cheaper route, compared to traditional experimental methods,” said Zhu.

“It is known that MgO makes up about 10 percent of the volume of our planet, and on other planets this fraction can be larger. The road is now open for a systematic discovery of new unexpected planet-forming materials,” concluded Oganov.

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation and DARPA.

About Artem R. Oganov
Artem R. Oganov has been a professor at Stony Brook University since 2008. He has published 112 papers and has one patent. He was recently one of three Stony Brook professors to receive an $800,000 Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The full story on this award can be found by clicking here.

About Qiang Zhu
Qiang Zhu earned his BS in Materials Sciences Engineering, Beihang University. He joined the Oganov lab in 2009 and has defended his PhD in Crystallography in February 2013. He has co-published more than 12 papers with Professor Oganov.

Zhu Q., Oganov A.R., Lyakhov A.O. (2013). Novel stable compounds in the Mg-O system under high pressure. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., in press.

| Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From ancient fossils to future cars
21.10.2016 | University of California - Riverside

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>