Search: Nitrogen, Germany
Everyone knows that elemental nitrogen exists in the atmosphere as dinitrogen, N2. There is a triple bond between the two nitrogen atoms. This is true - but under certain conditions, a fascinating N-N single bonded phase has been characterized.1
In 1985 it was predicted that at high pressure, nitrogen would transform to a solid with a single-bonded crystalline structure called polymeric nitrogen. Later, it was proposed that it whould have a cubic gauche (cg-N) structure. Experimental evidence was scant however until 2004 when a team of scientists from Germany and Russia managed to make the compound directly from molecular nitrogen at temperatures above 2000 K and pressures above 110 GPa using a laser-heated diamond cell. The material was characterized by X-ray and Raman scattering methods we have identified this as the polymeric nitrogen (cg-N).
The phase is a stiff with a bulk modulus ≥300 GPa. This is characteristic of strong covalent solids. The polymeric nitrogen is metastable. The structure of N is polymeric with each nitrogen bound to three other nitrogen atoms. At a pressure of 115 GPa, each N-N bond length is 1.346 ± 0.004 Å. The N-N-N angles are all about 108.8°, very close to the ideal tetrahedral angle of just over 109°.
It did not prove possible to recover the polymeric nitrogen by releasing the pressure - in other words the polymer reverts to normal dinitrogen. The authors speculate that this form of nitrogen is a new class of single-bonded nitrogen materials that may have unique energy capacity properties (more than five times that of the most powerful energetic materials).
Modern surface chemistry – fuel cells, artificial fertilizers and clean exhaust
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2007 to Gerhard Ertl of the Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany "for his studies of chemical processes on solid surfaces".
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2007 is awarded for groundbreaking studies in surface chemistry. This science is important for the chemical industry and can help us to understand such varied processes as why iron rusts, how fuel cells function and how the catalysts in our cars work. Chemical reactions on catalytic surfaces play a vital role in many industrial operations, such as the production of artificial fertilizers. Surface chemistry can even explain the destruction of the ozone layer, as vital steps in the reaction actually take place on the surfaces of small crystals of ice in the stratosphere. The semiconductor industry is yet another area that depends on knowledge of surface chemistry.
It was thanks to processes developed in the semiconductor industry that the modern science of surface chemistry began to emerge in the 1960s. Gerhard Ertl was one of the first to see the potential of these new techniques. Step by step he has created a methodology for surface chemistry by demonstrating how different experimental procedures can be used to provide a complete picture of a surface reaction. This science requires advanced high-vacuum experimental equipment as the aim is to observe how individual layers of atoms and molecules behave on the extremely pure surface of a metal, for instance. It must therefore be possible to determine exactly which element is admitted to the system. Contamination could jeopardize all the measurements. Acquiring a complete picture of the reaction requires great precision and a combination of many different experimental techniques.
Gerhard Ertl has founded an experimental school of thought by showing how reliable results can be attained in this difficult area of research. His insights have provided the scientific basis of modern surface chemistry: his method-ology is used in both academic research and the indust-rial development of chemical processes. The approach developed by Ertl is based not least on his studies of the Haber-Bosch process, in which nitrogen is extracted from the air for inclusion in artificial fertilizers. This reaction, which functions using an iron surface as its catalyst, has enormous economic significance because the availability of nitrogen for growing plants is often restricted. Ertl has also studied the oxidation of carbon monoxide on platinum, a reaction that takes place in the catalyst of cars to clean exhaust emissions.