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: Mist-collecting plants may bioinspire technology to help alleviate global water shortages

Related Stories

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

4 hours ago

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Humble neutron is valuable tool in geology

Mar 16, 2015

With the ability to analyse the properties of the Earth's internal components to the atomic scale in conditions only found kilometres below our feet, recent studies have allowed geoscientists to study our ...

Recommended for you

Soft, energy-efficient robotic wings

26 minutes ago

Dielectric elastomers are novel materials for making actuators or motors with soft and lightweight properties that can undergo large active deformations with high-energy conversion efficiencies. This has ...

Trapping and watching motile cells

3 hours ago

A new approach enables rapid characterization of living suspension cells in 4 dimensions while they are immobilized and manipulated within optical traps.

Controlling defects in engineered liquid crystals

4 hours ago

Sitting with a joystick in the comfort of their chairs, scientists can play "rodeo" on a screen magnifying what is happening under their microscope. They rely on optical tweezers to manipulate an intangible ring created out ...

Super sensitive measurement of magnetic fields

Mar 30, 2015

There are electrical signals in the nervous system, the brain and throughout the human body and there are tiny magnetic fields associated with these signals that could be important for medical science. Researchers ...

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.