Friday, January 10, 2014

Scientists at Stony Brook University in New York have found that the bonds that salt forms with chlorine (making table salt) are not set in stone (er salt). Instead of atoms lining up in cubic form, with each sodium forming a single chemical bond with a chlorine as they do under normal conditions, they form much more exotic structures under extreme heat and pressure. 

When salt was squeezed under high pressure between two diamonds and then heated with lasers, the sodium and chlorine atoms bonded in new ways. For example, a single sodium atom might attach to three chlorine atoms or five or seven. Or two sodium atoms might link up with three chlorines. This unusual bonding changes salt’s normal structure. Its atoms form amazing shapes never before seen in table salt. 

Artem Organov, Ph.D., one of the Stony Brook chemists explained that the high temperature and pressure used by his team may replicate extreme conditions deep inside stars and planets. In fact, it's possible that the experiment's unusual metallic and conducting structures occur throughout the universe.

Scientists have long speculated that the exchange of electrons during ionic bonding would be altered under high pressure and temperature. Instead of just attached to one atom, electrons would move from atom to atom and form shared bonds like what took place in the Stony Brook University salt experiments. New metallic bonds made it possible for sodium and chlorine atoms to share electrons in weird ways. Go science!

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