Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Explains Fundamental Properties of Gold

30.10.2015

Heidelberg chemists compare gold, silver and copper atoms in compounds with otherwise identical structures

Some fundamental properties of the coinage metal elements gold, silver and copper, such as chemical behaviour or colours, are already predetermined in their atoms. The unique properties of gold can be largely explained by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.


Foto: Matthias W. Hussong, Organisch-Chemisches Institut

Lösungen der drei Metallcarben-Komplexe von Kupfer, Silber und Gold (v.l.n.r.)

Chemists from Heidelberg University have been able to demonstrate this through their investigations of gold, silver and copper carbenes. They examined only single atoms of each metal in order to compare the three elements. The results of this research, led by Prof. Dr. Bernd Straub, were published in both the German and international editions of the journal “Angewandte Chemie” for applied and fundamental chemistry.

The properties of chemical elements are recurring periodically, since related elements possess the same number of electrons in the relevant outer shell and differ only due to additional inner electron shells. Copper, silver and gold belong to such a group of related elements.

“Comparing copper metal, silver metal and gold metal with their numerous neighbouring metal atoms has never been a problem, as pure metals have been around for millennia,” explains Prof. Straub, a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Organic Chemistry. However, he and his team were able to ascertain the differences of single atoms – in an otherwise identical molecule with which the metal atoms interact very strongly with a carbon atom via double bonds.

The Heidelberg scientists started their investigations with gold carbenes, which comprise a usually unstable – because highly reactive – double bond between carbon and gold. However, using a chemical “trick”, Prof. Straub and his team found a way to obtain and to isolate a stable gold carbene complex for research purposes. In further steps they managed to prepare and characterise a copper carbene and a silver carbene with otherwise identical structure, even though both these compounds were much more sensitive and unstable than the gold carbene.

Nevertheless, these complexes enabled the scientists to make a detailed comparison of the three elements of the coinage metal group – copper, silver and gold – on the scale of a molecule. Through the crystallisation of the particularly unstable silver carbene, they were able to determine the bond length between silver and the doubly-bonded carbon via an x-ray structural analysis. They then compared this with the shorter, stronger bonding between gold and carbon.

From their observations the researchers conclude that the properties of gold are fundamentally determined by “relativistic effects”. These effects come into play in physics when a phenomenon can no longer be described as “classical”. In chemistry this applies to the properties of certain elements.

The relativistic effects derive from Albert Einstein‘s theory of relativity with the well-known formula E = mc2 by which Einstein established a connection between energy, mass and speed of light. “Of the stable elements, the predicted relativistic effects are most noticeable with gold,” says Prof. Straub. A well-known example is the striking difference in colour between yellow gold metal and colorless silver metal.

Bernd Straub explains that, due to the attraction of the 79-fold positively charged gold nucleus, negatively charged gold electrons achieve such high velocities close to the speed of light (c) that additional motion energy (E) cannot substantially increase their speed. Instead, these electrons increase their mass (m). This effect is seen in the outermost electron shell, which is active and thus responsible for chemical behaviour, colours and properties of coinage metals.

In the case of gold, this leads to a strengthening of its bonds. Gold compounds thereby have a better chance, for example, of activating a triple bond between two carbon atoms. The comparison between the coinage metal elements gold, silver and copper with the double-bond carbon in each case showed that the atomic behaviour of gold is more similar to copper than to silver, although silver is its direct neighbour in the periodic system.

The research findings of the Heidelberg chemists confirm that Einstein‘s theory of relativity does not just play a crucial role in astronomy and space travel with their huge distances. Prof. Straub also emphasises its significance in the world of electrons, atoms and molecules.

Original publication:
M.W. Hussong, W.T. Hoffmeister, F. Rominger, B.F. Straub: Copper and Silver Carbene Complexes without Heteroatom-Stabilization: Structure, Spectroscopy, and Relativistic Effects. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2015, 54, 10331-10335, doi: 10.1002/anie.201504117

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Bernd F. Straub
Institute of Organic Chemistry
Phone +49 6221 54-6239
straub@oci.uni-heidelberg.de

Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/fakultaeten/chemgeo/oci/akstraub/index.html

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Angewandte Chemie COPPER Electrons Relativity properties single atoms speed of light

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>