Interstellar chemical tamed in the lab at UCR

April 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: Marine life cultivates half of the summer cloud droplets over the Southern Ocean

Related Stories

Scientists update horizontal wind model

July 13, 2015

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have updated the Horizontal Wind Model (HWM) that describes the climate of the upper atmospheric neutral winds. This improved empirical tool will help scientists as they ...

Heating and cooling with waste heat from industry

July 8, 2015

Heating and cooling in the future will utilise energy gained from waste heat which will be distributed at low temperature using district heating and cooling networks. It will thus make use of the heat wasted by cooling systems ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover new type of mycovirus

July 29, 2015

Researchers, led by Dr Robert Coutts, Leverhulme Research Fellow from the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire, and Dr Ioly Kotta-Loizou, Research Associate at Imperial College, have discovered ...

Rogue wave theory to save ships

July 29, 2015

Physicists have found an explanation for rogue waves in the ocean and hope their theory will lead to devices to warn ships and save lives.

First detection of lithium from an exploding star

July 29, 2015

The chemical element lithium has been found for the first time in material ejected by a nova. Observations of Nova Centauri 2013 made using telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory, and near Santiago in Chile, help to explain ...

0 comments

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.