?Amorphous? CO2 can form glass | india | Hindustan Times
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?Amorphous? CO2 can form glass

Scientists in Italy have discovered that carbon dioxide can form a glass, the British journal Nature reports on Thursday. Under extremely high pressures of up to half a million atmospheres, molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) form a glassy crystalline solid, they found.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 11:10 IST

Scientists in Italy have discovered that carbon dioxide can form a glass, the British journal Nature reports on Thursday. Under extremely high pressures of up to half a million atmospheres, molecules of carbon dioxide (CO2) form a glassy crystalline solid, they found.

Carbon is a member of the same chemical group as silicon and germanium. These latter elements combine with oxygen to provide glass — one is silicon dioxide, which is used for windows, bottles and other everyday glasses, and the other is germanium dioxide, which is added to silica to provide the fibres used in optical communication.

Carbon, though, is the odd one out, because it combines with oxygen to provide the poisonous gas carbon dioxide or the suffocating gas carbon dioxide. CO2, when frozen and squeezed, also forms the ‘dry ice’ which provides atmospheric smoke for stage shows.

The new material has been baptised amorphous carbonia, or a-CO2. At present, a-CO2 is a curiosity because it cannot be tested or used outside the pressure chamber.

The CO2 that in these extraordinary conditions takes up a chaotic ‘amorphous’ structure, becoming glass, reverts to orderly molecules of CO2 under decompression. The first challenge will be to develop a form of a-CO2 that can survive in room temperatures.

“Carbonia-based minerals and glasses could give rise to useful technological materials, if we can recover them to ambient conditions,” says Paul McMillan, a University College London chemist.

The discovery of a-CO2 raises intriguing questions about the huge gas planets in the outer Solar System. In theory, the enormous pressures of Jupiter, Saturn and the other gas giants could turn the planetary interior into hard, stiff a-carbonia.

The paper is lead-authored by Federico Gorelli and Mario Santoro of the European Laboratory for Non-Linear Spectroscopy (LENS), based in Florence, Italy.