Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New form of oxygen found

16.11.2001


Oxygen piles up: the four atom form might make good fuel.
© Photodisc


Scientists have detected a molecule they’ve been looking for since the 1920s.

Scientists in Italy have discovered a new form of oxygen1. In addition to the two well-known forms - ozone and the oxygen molecules in air - there is a third, they say, in which oxygen atoms are grouped in fours.

The oxygen molecules that we breathe (denoted O2) consist of two oxygen atoms. This, the most stable form of oxygen, makes up about one-fifth of air. Ozone is more reactive and comprises three oxygen atoms (O3). It is formed in the atmosphere in small quantities when sunlight splits O2 into its component atoms, which then recombine.



Now Fulvio Cacace and colleagues at the University of Rome ’La Sapienza’ have produced evidence of O4. The existence of such a molecule has been predicted since the 1920s, but extensive searches for it have yielded only tentative previous sightings.

Several chemical elements exist in more than one form or ’allotrope’. Carbon, for instance, forms diamond and graphite, as well as hollow, cage-like molecules called fullerenes and nanotubes. The atoms are arranged differently in each of these forms.

The interest in new oxygen allotropes is not purely theoretical. Liquefied ordinary oxygen (O2) is used as a rocket fuel (called LOX), as it reacts energetically with fuels such as hydrogen and hydrocarbons. As the O4 allotrope packs a lot of oxygen into a small space, it might be even more energy-dense.

O4 might also make a fleeting appearance in atmospheric chemical reactions that are responsible for the phenomenon of ’nightglow’ on Earth and other planets.

Four sight

To prove conclusively that they had identified O4, Cacace’s team used mass spectrometry. This technique separates a mixture of electrically charged molecules (ions) according to their mass and charge.

The researchers combined O2 molecules and positively charged O2 ions to produce O4 ions, which are identifiable by being four times as massive as oxygen atoms. They then added an electron to each O4 ion, transforming it to a neutral molecule.

After a short interval, the team stripped an electron from each O4 molecule so that they could detect them again as ions (neutral molecules are invisible to mass spectrometry). They reasoned that if the neutral molecules were sufficiently stable, they would show up when re-ionized - as indeed they did.

What O4 looks like is still a mystery. Earlier theoretical calculations suggested two possibilities: a rhombus-shaped molecule with an atom at each corner, or a triangle of atoms with the fourth in the centre. But neither of these options fits the researchers’ results very well.

Instead, they think that O4 is probably composed of two dumbbell-like O2 molecules that are loosely bound together.

References

  1. Cacace, F., de Petris, G. & Troiani, A. Experimental detection of tetraoxygen. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 40, 4062 - 4065 , (2001).

PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/011122/011122-3.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New switch decides between genome repair and death of cells
27.09.2016 | University of Cologne - Universität zu Köln

nachricht A blue stoplight to prevent runaway photosynthesis
27.09.2016 | National Institute for Basic Biology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New switch decides between genome repair and death of cells

27.09.2016 | Life Sciences

Nanotechnology for energy materials: Electrodes like leaf veins

27.09.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

‘Missing link’ found in the development of bioelectronic medicines

27.09.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>