Surprisingly enough, these so-called super atoms (clusters of 13 silver atoms, for example) behave in the same way as individual atoms and have opened up a whole new branch of chemistry. A full account can be read in the new edition of TU Delft magazine Delft Outlook.
If a silver thread is heated to around 900 degrees Celsius, it will generate vapour made up of silver atoms. The floating atoms stick to each other in groups. Small lumps of silver comprising for example 9, 13 and 55 atoms appear to be energetically stable and are therefore present in the silver mist more frequently that one might assume. Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Ott and Dr. Christian Peineke of TU Delft managed to collect these super atoms and make them suitable for more detailed chemical experiments.Science
The super atoms gave the periodic table a third dimension as it were, according to Schmidt-Ott: ‘The chemical properties of the super atoms that have been identified up until now are very similar to those of elements in the periodic table, because their outer layers are much the same. However, we may yet discover super atoms with a different outer layer, giving us another set of completely new properties.’
Schmidt-Ott hopes to find atom clusters with new unique magnetic, optical or electrical properties, which would also be stable enough to create crystals or other solid forms. Potential applications include catalysts in fuel and extra-conductive crystals.Pure
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