Discovery of new family of pseudo-metallic chemicals

Apr 24, 2007

The periodic table of elements, all 111 of them, just got a little competition. A new discovery by a University of Missouri-Columbia research team, published in Angewandte Chemie allows scientists to manipulate a molecule discovered 50 years ago in such as way as to give the molecule metal-like properties, creating a new, "pseudo" element. The pseudo-metal properties can be adjusted for a wide range of uses and might change the way scientists think about attacking disease or even building electronics.

Five decades ago, Fred Hawthorne, professor of radiology and director of the International Institute for Nano and Molecular Medicine at MU, discovered an extremely stable molecule consisting of 12 boron atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms. Known as "boron cages," these molecules were difficult to change or manipulate, and sat dormant in Hawthorne's laboratory for many years.

Recently, Hawthorne's scientific team found a way to modify these cages, resulting in a large, new family of nano-sized compounds. In their study, which was published this month, Hawthorne, and Mark Lee, assistant professor at the institute and first author of the study, found that attaching different compounds to the cages gave them the properties of many different metals.

"Since the range of properties for these pseudo-metals is quite large, they might be referred to as 'psuedo-elements belonging to a completely new pseudo-periodic table,'" Lee said.
Potential applications of this discovery are abundant, especially in medicine.

"All living organisms are essentially a grand concert of chemical reactions involving the transfer of electrons between molecules and metals,'" Lee said. "The electron transfer properties of this new family of molecules span the entire range of those found within living systems. Because of this, these pseudo-metals may be tuned for use as specific probes in living systems to detect or treat disease at the earliest state."

In addition, because the compounds possess such a wide range of flexibility, they might have ramifications for nanotechnology and various kinds of electronics.

"This single discovery could open entirely new fields of study because of the controlled variability of the compounds," Lee said. "We have the ability to change the properties of these pseudo-metals, which gives us the opportunity to tailor them to our needs, whether that is biomedical, chemical or electronic applications, some of which may utilize nanoscience."

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: New molecule puts scientists a step closer to understanding hydrogen storage

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Decoding the chemical vocabulary of plants

May 01, 2014

Plants spend their entire lifetime rooted to one spot. When faced with a bad situation, such as a swarm of hungry herbivores or a viral outbreak, they have no option to flee but instead must fight to survive. ...

Solving a mystery of thermoelectrics

Apr 29, 2014

Materials that can be used for thermoelectric devices—those that turn a temperature difference into an electric voltage—have been known for decades. But until now there has been no good explanation for ...

Venus mountains create wave trains

Jan 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —The planet Venus is blanketed by high-level clouds. At visible wavelengths, individual cloud features are difficult to see, but observations made by instruments on ESA's Venus Express orbiter ...

NASA preps for space-based stem cell research

Dec 09, 2013

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) are enabling research aboard the International Space Station that could lead to new stem cell-based therapies for medical conditions faced on Earth and in ...

Recommended for you

A new approach to creating organic zeolites

Jul 24, 2014

Yushan Yan, Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Delaware, is known worldwide for using nanomaterials to solve problems in energy engineering, environmental sustainability and electronics.

User comments : 0