Purdue University scientists have uncovered an unusual material that could lead to non-metallic magnets, which might be lighter, cheaper and easier to fabricate than magnets made of metal.
Purdue chemist Paul Wenthold stands with graduate student Tamara Munsch next to a model illustrating the unusual molecule they analyzed. The radical hydrocarbon has unpaired electrons that face in different directions, a characteristic that makes it unique among non-metallic compounds. The electrons, represented by the binders closer to Wenthold and under a diagram of the molecule itself, "stack up" in a way that can be likened to the way binders lie flat on a shelf but do not face the same direction – as they would in an ordinary radical, represented by the stack farther from him. The fundamental discovery could help in the design of new materials such as non-metal magnets. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)
A team of researchers, including Paul G. Wenthold, has analyzed a radical hydrocarbon molecule whose electrons behave differently than they should, according to well-known principles. The compound is not the only molecule that exhibits such odd behavior in its surrounding cloud of electrons, but it is the first to be discovered that does not include a transition metal.
"In that respect, this is a unique exception to the electron-behavior rule, and it might help chemists think more clearly about where other exceptions lie," said Wenthold, an assistant professor of chemistry in Purdue’s School of Science. "Designing materials with novel properties depends on understanding the forces at work inside their molecules, and understanding the structure of this exceptional molecule could lead to new tools for material design."
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