Forging a brand-new chemical bond using the pressure of the Mars core

October 26, 2016, American Chemical Society
The crystal structure of FeBi2 reveals never-before-observed iron (red) to bismuth (purple) bond (green). Credit: American Chemical Society

When it comes to making chemical bonds, some elements go together like peanut butter and jelly; but for others, it's more like oil and water. Scientists can combat this elemental antipathy using extreme pressures. And now in ACS Central Science, researchers report that they have used pressure equivalent to that within the core of Mars to forge the first-ever iron-bismuth bond, which could help them make brand-new magnetic and superconducting materials.

For most reactions, the first step is to mix the "ingredients" evenly, which is unbelievably difficult to do with iron and bismuth. Even at nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit—a temperature hot enough to melt both metals—only 0.16 percent of the bismuth will dissolve into the molten iron.

Danna Freedman and colleagues proposed using very high pressure to make the two elements more amenable to bonding. At pressures around 30 GPa, the researchers observed evidence of a new substance: FeBi2.

They found they could lower the pressure to 3GPa and still maintain the material, although back at earth's atmospheric pressure (nearly 30,000 times lower) the compound returns to its constituent parts.

Freedman notes that her group is currently working on approaches to scale up the synthesis to allow them to further investigate whether this unique compound is superconductive and magnetic, as they predict it could be and find ways to make it stable.

Why do rare earth magnets need to be replaced?

Explore further: Geochemical detectives use lab mimicry to look back in time

More information: ACS Central Science, pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acscentsci.6b00287

Related Stories

Geochemical detectives use lab mimicry to look back in time

April 28, 2016

New work from a research team led by Carnegie's Anat Shahar contains some unexpected findings about iron chemistry under high-pressure conditions, such as those likely found in the Earth's core, where iron predominates and ...

Just what sustains Earth's magnetic field anyway?

June 1, 2016

Earth's magnetic field shields us from deadly cosmic radiation, and without it, life as we know it could not exist here. The motion of liquid iron in the planet's outer core, a phenomenon called a "geodynamo," generates the ...

Probing iron chemistry in the deep mantle

May 15, 2015

Carbonates are a group of minerals that contain the carbonate ion (CO32-) and a metal, such as iron or magnesium. Carbonates are important constituents of marine sediments and are heavily involved in the planet's deep carbon ...

Recommended for you

Honey, I shrunk the cell culture

October 23, 2018

From "Fantastic Voyage" to "Despicable Me," shrink rays have been a science-fiction staple on screen. Now chemists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a real shrink ray that can change the size and shape of ...

Inexpensive chip-based device may transform spectrometry

October 23, 2018

Spectrometers—devices that distinguish different wavelengths of light and are used to determine the chemical composition of everything from laboratory materials to distant stars—are large devices with six-figure price ...

Cheminformatics approaches to creating new hair dyes

October 23, 2018

Finding the next generation of safer hair dyes may be as simple as going to the library – in this case, NC State's Max Weaver Dye Library. The dye library, donated by the Eastman Chemical Company, contains nearly 100,000 ...

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.