Interstellar chemical tamed in the lab at UCR

Apr 13, 2006
Interstellar molecules in a bottle at UCR
Interstellar molecules in a bottle at UCR. Credit: University of California - Riverside

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have created in the laboratory a type of molecules thought to exist only in interstellar space, which may have valuable applications in chemical industry.

The finding of their paper, titled "Cyclopropenylidenes: From Interstellar Space to an Isolated Derivative in the Laboratory" are being released today in Science Express a precursor to its publication in the journal Science. The co-authors are Vincent Lavallo, Yves Canac and Bruno Donnadieu who work in the laboratory of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Guy Bertrand at UCR; and Chemistry Professor Wolfgang W. Schoeller of Germany's Universität Bielefeld.

"This is about a compound that is very abundant in deep space, which was supposed to not be able to exist in the laboratory, and we found a way to slightly modify it and make it stable," said Bertrand.

The new molecule belongs to a family of compounds known as carbenes, very few of which are stable. However, carbenes are now widely used to prepare catalysts that have many applications in industries such as pharmaceuticals, plastics and other petrochemicals. The cyclopropenylidene that exists naturally in space is made of three carbon atoms arranged in a triangle with two hydrogen atoms attached. The UCR researchers synthesized a more stable version by replacing the hydrogen with two nitrogen atoms. Because of its unique shape and size, the new carbene prepared at UCR might lead to even more powerful catalysts.

"We purposely targeted this molecule," said Lavallo, a first-year graduate student in Chemistry and the paper's lead author. "I was intrigued by some of the older literature regarding this class of molecules, which indicated that they were too reactive to be isolated, and decided to see if it was true."

"Everyday, scientists realize the usefulness of natural products, which exist on planet Earth, for pharmaceuticals, materials... Why not believe that molecules, which exist in space possess interesting and of course yet unknown properties?" Bertrand said.

Source: University of California - Riverside

Explore further: Physicist's Nobel Prize up for auction; $325,000 minimum bid (Update)

Related Stories

On-demand X-rays at synchrotron light sources

13 hours ago

Consumers are now in the era of "on-demand" entertainment, in which they have access to the books, music and movies they want thanks to the internet. Likewise, scientists who use synchrotron light sources ...

'Deep web search' may help scientists

May 25, 2015

When you do a simple Web search on a topic, the results that pop up aren't the whole story. The Internet contains a vast trove of information—sometimes called the "Deep Web"—that isn't indexed by search ...

SLAC gears up for dark matter hunt with LUX-ZEPLIN

May 21, 2015

Researchers have come a step closer to building one of the world's best dark matter detectors: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently signed off on the conceptual design of the proposed LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) ...

Recommended for you

Physicists solve quantum tunneling mystery

7 minutes ago

An international team of scientists studying ultrafast physics have solved a mystery of quantum mechanics, and found that quantum tunneling is an instantaneous process.

How spacetime is built by quantum entanglement

9 minutes ago

A collaboration of physicists and a mathematician has made a significant step toward unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics by explaining how spacetime emerges from quantum entanglement in a more ...

Experiment confirms quantum theory weirdness

18 minutes ago

The bizarre nature of reality as laid out by quantum theory has survived another test, with scientists performing a famous experiment and proving that reality does not exist until it is measured.

Quantum computer emulated by a classical system

1 hour ago

(Phys.org)—Quantum computers are inherently different from their classical counterparts because they involve quantum phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, which do not exist in classical digital ...

Scientist provides new fluid dynamics insights

2 hours ago

New calculations by a theoretical astrophysicist at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) provide tools that open a door to exploring the history of events in astrophysical flows and in plasma fusion ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.