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August 2, 2011 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Chemists transform acids to bases!, Invisible & Flexible Electronics!, Robots walk on water!, Light manipulated at will! New stories from BiMonSciFiCon ?(SYTL) Nope, just another day at Science Daily...
posted by onesidys (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I kind of hate to say it, but does this mean people can cook meth without as much toxicity? Because on balance that'd be a good thing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:05 PM on August 2, 2011


That acid to base story is pretty cool. Any chemists here care to elaborate on the possible applications?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:17 PM on August 2, 2011


His lab achieved the result by modifying the number of electrons in boron, with no change to the atom's nucleus.
"It's almost like changing one atom into another atom," Bertrand said.


This is some kickass Ctrl-C Ctrl-V reporting.
posted by benzenedream at 6:21 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Science summary.
posted by benzenedream at 6:25 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's kind of how science press releases work. Science Daily is really just an aggregator for press releases. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, you just have to keep in mind that the vast majority of the text will come from the university marketing/communications department. "Plus this one basic statement thrown in", researcher Kilted Taco said, "Then an overly generous extrapolation. It's almost like magic!"

Dr. Kilted Taco's research will appear in the journal MetaFilter on Wednesday.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:31 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


benzedenedream, not that it makes it any better, and it still doesn't really make sense, but at the end of the story sciencedaily.com makes the following note:

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Rice University.


Which would make since Rice University is where the study happened. But the article you link is from UC Riverside. I don't get it. Cool stuff though.
posted by localhuman at 6:34 PM on August 2, 2011


That acid to base story is pretty cool. Any chemists here care to elaborate on the possible applications?

Sure - Catalysts are used to encourage chemical reactions but aren't chemically used up in reactions. For example, your car's catalytic converter (CC) uses platinum to change carbon monoxide of exhaust fumes to carbon dioxide which is less toxic. Your CC also changes nitrogen oxide (aka nitrogen monoxide) to nitrous oxide (nitrogen dioxide). But the CC remains unchanged as a piece of metal inside a box under your car.

Many catalysts are very specific and difficult to construct. They typically use rare and expensive metals.

These metals are often attached to specific materials that are used to capture specific molecules (known as ligands).

By using acidic molecules (such as boron) instead of more traditional basic ones (such as phosphorous ones) as ligands, science-type people can create new catalysts that they can use to create even more new exotic materials - or just do other reactions cheaper.
posted by onesidys at 8:20 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate the title. Transform acids into bases? Most compounds in aqueous solution can behave as acid and base depending on the pH of the solution. Is that really ground breaking?

His lab achieved the result by modifying the number of electrons in boron, with no change to the atom's nucleus.
"It's almost like changing one atom into another atom


My general chemistry is little fizzy now. For boron atoms to behave like a nitrogen atoms that imply you would need to add two more electrons to boron electron shell. Is that right?
posted by Carius at 8:46 PM on August 2, 2011


I got my Master's in boron superacid chemistry before shifting over to organosilicon work for the doctorate and Jebus, the first article is excruciating to read. (My Master's advisor is also working at UC Riverside, now.)

While many compounds can behave as either an acid or a base (amphoteric) depending on the solvent or other environmental factors (e.g., the other reactants used), many compounds are so Lewis Acidic (e.g., boranes with the B-H bonds) that they are, for all intents and purposes, simply classified as acids because it's impractical to find conditions under which they could act as a base (i.e., with a solvent or other reagent that encouraged them to undergo an energetically unpreferred donation of an electron pair).

Not having read the underlying science, it sounds like the overall boron-containing compound is given the extra electrons - not just a localized charge on a boron, itself. By doing so, it makes the boron-containing compound isoelectronic with an amine, which can then act as a Lewis Base (electron pair donor). That's very cool and would open up a whole new field of born chemistry, for sure. Very exciting!

I don't have a good feel for how this would make it a better catalyst, though. (Industrial catalyst applications isn't my forte'). Still, yay boron chemistry!
posted by darkstar at 11:02 PM on August 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


*boron chemistry
posted by darkstar at 11:03 PM on August 2, 2011


Ahh...I've not been able to read the article, but from the abstract, it gets a little clearer. They are using borylenes, which are boron analogues of carbene. A borylene has a lone pair of electrons and one alkyl group (usually) bonded to the boron. This means that the boron is electron deficient, with only four electrons around it. Boron likes to have six (too small to have a full octet, generally), so is energetically desperate to receive two more electrons. Hence, borylenes are extremely reactive Lewis Acids (they want another electron pair).

It sounds like the researchers are using the highly reactive carbenes as a stabilizing donor of electron density. The borylene accepts the lone pair of electrons from the carbene (I guess?) and is satisfied energetically (as far as boron's valence is concerned). But the boron still has that lone pair on it. Because the lone pair on the boron is no longer on an electronically deficient atom (the boron is satisfied), the electron pair can now be used to donate to a new molecule to form a new bond. Thus, the boron acts as a Lewis Base, just like a nitrogen in an amine would, by donating its lone pair.

At least, that's the general mechanism I'm surmising from the abstract.
posted by darkstar at 11:22 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


My high school chemistry teacher had a big horn for boron.

Same column on the periodic table as carbon. "Think of carbon chemistry. It's the backbone of plastics and fossil fuels and LIFE as we know it! Yet we've barely begun to scratch the surface when it comes to boron. I can only imagine the amazing things that are just around the corner!"

Erm.

Flying car. Life changing boron-based products. Still waiting.


May her rest be long and placid
She added water to the acid
The other daughter did what we taught her
And added acid to the water
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:40 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


My high school chemistry teacher had a big horn for boron

I also like to "get my whore on"
By contemplating sexy Boron!
'Tis an element to "set your store on"
(Especially if there's a war on).

And, there's no lack of magick lore on
Boron; e.g. some say you should pour on
Boron to your lead (and then some more on
Top) to make a transformation roar on -
A recipe alchemists swore on!

If I was shipwrecked, washed ashore on
Some deserted island - with no store on
Its broad beach - I'd cry for (on
catching breath!) my lack of Boron.
That's why I'll never dare explore, on
Sailing ship, the Oceans; or, don
The regalia of the Marine Corps. On
preview: no, I'm not a moron -
I just get my kicks from boron.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:15 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


mmmmm, unpreferred donation. /homer s
posted by sneebler at 6:07 AM on August 3, 2011


I was having a look at the transparent electronics, and the flexible computing bit - nothing exemplifies the 'Ivory Tower' much more than "I don't know how many times a person would roll up a computer," Tour added. "Maybe 1,000 times? Ten thousand times? It's hard to see how it would wear out in the lifetime you would normally keep a device." Twice-a-day for a year is better than 500...

Alternately - wrist/forearm computing, here we come!
posted by LD Feral at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2011


Same column on the periodic table as carbon.

Actually aluminium is below boron (group 3). Silicon is below carbon (they're group 4).
posted by phliar at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually aluminium is below boron (group 3). Silicon is below carbon (they're group 4).

Who is this idiot? Al and B are group III, C and Si are group VI. (Renumbered 13 and 14.)
posted by phliar at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2011


Woops. My bad. Rows columns. Same thing.

All I know for sure is that he had a big horn for boron. And it had something to do with carbon doping silicon = silicon chips. And boron. And carbon = life. Yada yada.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:49 PM on August 9, 2011


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