Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


An Epiphany of Cosmic Proportions

University of North Dakota scientist Mark Hoffmann’s version of Star Search goes a long way — a very long way — out into the universe.

Hoffmann, a computational chemist, and his colleagues Tryve Helgaker, a well-known Norwegian scientist, and co-authors E.I. Tellgren and K. Lange, also working in Norway, have discovered a molecular-level interaction that science had puzzled over for decades but had never seen.

That discovery, it turns out, may redefine how science views chemical compound formation. It also answers questions about what goes on in places like white dwarfs, the super dense cores of stars nearing the end of their life cycles.

“We discovered a new type of chemical bonding,” said Hoffmann, known globally for his pioneering work in the theory and computer modeling of chemical compound formation.

“That’s a pretty bold statement, but I’m not kidding you! It’s a brand new type of chemical bonding, not previously known to science.”

Hoffmann and his colleagues have rewritten the chemical rule book for assessing what happens in the night sky. It’s about answering timeless questions such as how stars form, evolve, and eventually die.

Their work also provides the secret for how some compounds form in the distant universe. This momentous discovery appears in an article in a recent issue of the internationally respected journal Science.

“Our discovery addresses one of the mysteries in astrophysics about the spectrum of white dwarf stars,” Hoffmann said. “White dwarfs have an unusual spectrum that has been thought to result from polymerized hydrogen and helium which, of course, do not occur on Earth.

“It’s possible out there because the magnetic fields on white dwarfs are several orders of magnitude larger than anything that can be generated on Earth.”

The closest white dwarf, Sirius B, is a faint twin to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius A. It’s about the same size as our sun, but much denser; its average density is 1.7 metric tons per cubic centimeter, or about 3,000 pounds compressed into a box the size of a sugar cube.

Hoffmann and his team described a magnetically induced bonding process between materials.

“There was speculation that this phenomenon should exist, but no one had the proof, and no one — until the team I’m on described the process — had the theoretical structure and the computational tools to address this,” he said.

On Earth, even the boldest military experiments generate a peak of maybe 1,000 Tesla — a measure of magnetic force (refrigerator magnets generate a thousandth of one Tesla). But on Sirius B, for example, magnetic fields are on the order of 200,000 to 400,000 Tesla, enough to challenge the electronic interactions that dominate the chemistry and material science we know on Earth.

Such vast magnetic fields directly alter the way atoms come together, and can alter the chemical reality we know on Earth.

“What we had before we discovered this was basically a paper-and-pencil model of what goes on in the universe. Compared to what’s out there in places such as white dwarf stars, the magnetic fields we can generate here — even with the strongest magnets — are pathetic.”

So how did they do it?

“We computationally modeled the behavior that we theorized, based on universally applicable physical principles,” Hoffmann said.

The team’s computer model supported their theory. Now it’s up to astrophysicists to test the model by old-fashioned observation of the stars.

David Dodds | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA
27.10.2016 | University of Oklahoma

nachricht First results of NSTX-U research operations
26.10.2016 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

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...

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

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>