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 'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Fraunhofer HHI have developed a novel single-polarization Kramers-Kronig receiver scheme
16.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI

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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>