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Science

Nitrogen 'Diamond' Created 73

Posted by michael
from the squish dept.
Sensible Clod writes "Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry have synthesized a new form of nitrogen, with a stucture like that of diamond. This was accomplished by means of a crushing force (>110 GPa) at extremely high temperature (2000 K), of course. The result, according to PhysOrg, is a very hard crystal with a lot of energy stored in it, which leads to the possibility of using it as a non-polluting fuel or high-explosive."
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Nitrogen 'Diamond' Created

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  • Properties? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justanyone (308934) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:19PM (#10505432) Homepage Journal

    Several Questions:
    1. Translucent?
    2. Melting point?
    3. Stable at STP ?
    4. Does It Burn if I touch a match to it? Explode?
    5. Does it resemble N2, which is stable, or not?
    6. What is the hardness level (Mohr's scale) ?
    7. Will it degrade over time under exposure to water?
    8. Is the method for creating it highly expensive or could this be scaled up?
    9. If it is explosive, how do we store it safely?
    10. What are the mechanical properties? If it's stable and otherwise useful, will it vibrate with a piezoelectric effect?
    11. Is it a semiconductor, conductor, or insulator?
    12. Does it lase (can we use it as a pump medium for a laser) ?

    • Re:Properties? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by the morgawr (670303) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:23PM (#10505483) Homepage Journal
      From reading the article, it doesn't sound like they've gotten the material to stay that way at room temperature and pressure yet, so measuring much that stuff would be difficult.
    • Re:Properties? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:02PM (#10505918)
      From the article:
      "First of all, we should try to recover the compound to ambient temperature and pressure", Eremets says.

      Translation: "It spontaneously goes poof (or kaboom) when we release the pressure in the machine."
    • by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:27PM (#10506177) Homepage Journal
      Just mod the answers down now. It'll be easier for all conerned...

      Several Questions: 1. Translucent?

      No but it is transqwest.

      2. Melting point??

      Typically comes after an expensive dinner and a little champagne.

      3. Stable at STP ??

      No but it does keep horses in the Quaker State.

      4. Does It Burn if I touch a match to it? Explode??

      Only when the match is lit.

      5. Does it resemble N2, which is stable, or not??

      It more closely resembles Not, stability notwithstanding.

      6. What is the hardness level (Mohr's scale) ??

      It rates a 2.7 on the Less is Mohr scale.

      7. Will it degrade over time under exposure to water??

      Sort of. It gets these prune like wrinkles in its outer fringes...

      8. Is the method for creating it highly expensive or could this be scaled up??

      Cheaper than antimatter, but more expensive than pirated CD's.

      9. If it is explosive, how do we store it safely??

      We'll figure that out once we have them produced in order to build on the success of our nuclear storage program.

      10. What are the mechanical properties? If it's stable and otherwise useful, will it vibrate with a piezoelectric effect??

      As for the former, it owns two car repair joints over on the East Side, as to the latter, uhhhhh, sure.

      11. Is it a semiconductor, conductor, or insulator??

      It has a part time gig with the Philharmonic, so it is a semi-conductor.

      12. Does it lase (can we use it as a pump medium for a laser) ?

      It lazes very well, especially on Sundays during football season.

    • It's going to take some time to determine those properties. The researchers are proceeding very cautiously because they don't want to end up like Mikey, who was also working with gasses packed into a solidified form.
  • by El (94934) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:20PM (#10505438)
    "Here honey, but this diamond ring on and then go punch that wall..."
  • by Banner (17158) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:20PM (#10505448) Journal
    Getting the energy out in a controllable stream, not all at once. It's not the storage of energy that is ever the issue: Capacitors and high-explosives store lots. It's just getting it out the way you want it that is the trick.
    • by Ayaress (662020) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:06PM (#10505966) Journal
      I guess that's why they listed high explosive among the uses. Even if you can't control the blast whatsoever, if it blows up, you can find a use for it.
    • " It's just getting it out the way you want it that is the trick."

      I'm itching to do a Wile E. Coyote joke, but I haven't had my coffee yet.
    • by iwadasn (742362) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:13PM (#10508177)

      High explosives don't store that much. If I remember correctly, TNT for instance has less energy than gasoline. It's not so much about the quantity of energy in an explosive, but rather the rate at which it can be released.

    • > Getting the energy out in a controllable stream, not all at once. It's not the storage of energy that is ever the issue: Capacitors and high-explosives store lots. It's just getting it out the way you want it that is the trick.

      Maybe they should make the crystals out of lithium-2 instead of nitrogen.

    • The real question is the efficiency of storing it. If it stores megajoules in cubic centimeters, but takes gigajoules to create, it's not such a safe bank in which to invest our energy. In which case it's good only as a bomb, and we've just invented a great way for countries to develop WMD without either nuclear tech sophistication, or critical factors like fissionables or klystrons. And even if it's an efficient battery, the transfer of energy into it will undoubtedly produce pollution. This is one big bla
  • .. diamonds of purest nitrogen, holy of holies, won't be cheap enough for us mortals to own and use until the .. erm .. porn industry .. works out .. a use for it ..

    *ahem*
  • Fuel? Baah. (Score:5, Funny)

    by arkham6 (24514) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:24PM (#10505492)
    A fuel? How much less energy do you get out from it than was put into it? It seems like a very difficult way of wasting energy.
    • Currently[*] all fuels give back less energy than was put into them. There are times and places where size and mass may be at a premium, e.g., launching something into space. [*] and by "currently", I mean "eternally"
    • So is a common everyday chemical battery of any type, yet they are in use all over the world.

    • Well all batteries do a terrible job of capturing the charging energy. The important thing is how much total energy it can store, and how efficiently it can release it. Losing energy during the charging conversion process is really unimportant.
    • Re:Fuel? Baah. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JohnPM (163131) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:17PM (#10508210) Homepage
      Think rocket fuel. The weight is critical to how much fuel you'll need. Lighter fuels are invaluable even if it takes heaps of energy to generate them.
  • Reminds me of... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by reverseengineer (580922) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:39PM (#10505663)
    This seems somewhat like a what a polymerized azide ((N3)- ion)compound would be like, perhaps with many similar properties- I can see the uses as a high explosive, as sodium azide is generally the explosive in airbags- a couple grams of the salt is sufficient to generate over 50L of nitrogen gas quite rapidly. The rearrangement of this network solid into triple-bonded gas molecules should release an enormous amount of energy. I wonder if this is nearly as sensitive to shock as the azides are though.
    • And here I thought what was in airbags was either silicone gel or a saline solution...
    • Re:Reminds me of... (Score:5, Informative)

      by cryptochrome (303529) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:11PM (#10506011) Journal
      Well there is also the slight problem with the fact that azides are EXTREEEEMLY nasty. Here's the short warning:

      Sodium azide is extremely toxic (LD50 oral [rat] 27mg/kg) and a powerful poison. Ingesting very small amounts can cause death in a short period of time. When mixed with water or an acid, sodium azide changes rapidly to a toxic gas with a pungent odor. However, the odor may not be sharp enough to give people sufficient warning as to the hazard. When heated to its decomposition temperature of ~275C, sodium azide may undergo violent decomposition. Additional hazards: Sodium azide also changes into a toxic gas when it comes in contact with solid metals. Sodium azide reacts violently with nitric acid, bromine, carbon disulfide, dimethylsulfate, and several heavy metals including copper and lead. Never flush sodium azide (solid or concentrated solution) down the drain -- the azide can react with lead or copper in the drain lines and explode. Do not store on metal shelves or use metal items to handle sodium azide (i.e., spatulas). Contact with metal shelves, containers, and utensils can result in formation of heavy metal azides and the risk of explosion.

      Most of these issues stem from the fact that azide packs a very large amount of energy in a very reactive compound. I would imagine nitrodiamond dust could have issues as well. Although a state change between the solid and gas forms would produce no pollution, it could potentially be reactive with other compounds, like oxygen and carbon dioxide.
      • by justanyone (308934) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:35PM (#10506297) Homepage Journal
        Do Not Taunt Super-Happy-Fun-sodiumazide.
      • Re:Reminds me of... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Muhammar (659468)
        You are exaggerating wildly. I work with sodium azide frequently and it is not terribly dangerous or poisonous material.
        Extremely toxic is stuff that will make you ill (dead) from ingestion/inhalation of tiny amounts - like from having few whifs of vapor, licking your fingers or spilling few drops on your sleeve. Or something that accumulates over repeated exposure. If the tox from rat scales to human, 27mg/kg 50% mortality means that a grown man (80kg) would have to ingest something like 2g of the stuff fo
        • Yes, but the context of the article is of using these rather potent substances as propellant or high explosive. Many of those applications involve rather more than a few grams.

          Incidentally, we use sodium azide in my lab too. No deaths, but it does have the nastiest warning on the side of the bottle of all our chemicals. Except for that one bottle of ricin [cdc.gov], which is potentially fatal with a mere 0.5 milligrams.
    • Amusingly enough, something like this was predicted [technovelgy.com] by SF author E.E."Doc" Smith back in 1931.

  • look at the amount of resources that had to be spent just to get it into this form!
    • Every fuel takes more energy to produce than you can get out of it. This will be true whether the fuel is ethanol or anti-matter. It's the second law of thermodynamics.

      What makes a fuel non-polluting is the waste products. A fuel that, when used, gives off water is non-polluting compared to a fuel that gives off carbon monoxide. In this case, if the polymeric nitrogen could be converted to the more stable triple-bonded molecule, you would get common molecular nitrogen and a lot of energy. Thus, this h
    • Doesn't that depend on where you get the energy from in the first place? If they are right next to a nuclear power plant or a windmill or a hydroelectric generator and they use that power then there is no net carbon dioxide production.

      Still, they haven't produced a crystal that survives at STP- as soon as they remove the pressure it goes back to being gas again- I don't know about you, but I don't usually carry a diamond anvil around in my car. It isn't a practical fuel, or energy storage technique at pres

  • fuel, my ass! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by museumpeace (735109) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:02PM (#10505925) Journal
    This is like Bush talking about using hydrogen to solve the looming oil shortages...
    How much energy do you put in to the process and the material compared to the amount you can get out of it? These uneconomical fuels are a half assed notion that only have real applications where weight or efficiency are hard constraints and money is not, i.e. space craft propulsion.
    • Re:fuel, my ass! (Score:4, Informative)

      by j_cavera (758777) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:39PM (#10506346)
      Fuel as in energy storage, not energy generation. Fossil fuels give net energy (but not by much) because they naturally exist in an unstable state. Nitrogen naturally occurs in its most stable state, so no net energy by burning N2. But put it into polymeric form and you have a strained lattice storing tons of energy, read: rocket fuel. As a comparison:

      2 H2 + 02 -> 2 H20 12.6 MJ/kg
      N4 -> 2 N2 60 MJ/kg (est.)

      Other, even higher energy (non-nuclear) fuels include:

      Metallic Hydrogen: 2 H(s) -> H2(g) 138 MJ/kg
      Free-Radical Hydrogen: H + H -> H2 104 MJ/kg
      Metastable Helium: He* -> He 480 MJ/kg
      Ionic Hydrogen: H(+) + H(-) -> H2 835 MJ/kg

      As much fun as you can have without going nuclear...
      • hmmm thats interesting. Ionic hydrogen couldn't be that easy to handle though could it? Seems like its just protons and would want to a plasama or one bad-ass acid. Didn't sound like the single bonded N was very stable either but I am not sure I was getting the article straight.
        • Storing hydrogen ions is a *huge* problem as you can well imagine. Some thoughts include magnetic confinement (probably more trouble than its worth) or as frozen, monoatomic hydrogen snow in a bath of liquid helium (also ranking in the "yeah, right" category). NASA (formerly Lewis) Glenn Research Center has done some on the hydrogen snow idea, but hasn't gotten very far.

          Polymeric nitrogen will (hopefully) be stable once released from captivity. No one knows for sure though ...
          • ...Polymeric nitrogen will (hopefully) be stable once released from captivity. No one knows for sure though ...

            OK, you do the experiment, I'll read [or hear] the report;)
          • Storing hydrogen ions is a *huge* problem as you can well imagine. Some thoughts include magnetic confinement (probably more trouble than its worth)

            For space applications, you could use a large wire loop to make a big and _light_ dipole magnet, and store the ionized hydrogen in the extended side lobes (much as particles are trapped in Earth's van Allen belts). Density is low, but it's mass of the craft that matters, not size. You can only use it slowly, but that isn't a big disadvantage either (it's only
      • Re:fuel, my ass! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:31PM (#10508351)
        Not to pic nits, but fuels can be used to produce energy because they're not in the lowest energy state, not because of instability. Endothermic reactions can result from instability, but absorb energy.
      • Metastable Helium: He* -> He 480 MJ/kg

        As much fun as you can have without going nuclear...

        Isomeric transition is a nuclear process.

        • Metastable Helium: He* -> He 480 MJ/kg
          As much fun as you can have without going nuclear...


          Isomeric transition is a nuclear process.

          This isn't a nuclear isomer - it's an electronic isomer. Helium normally has both electrons in the 1s orbital with opposite spins. He* has one in 1s and one in 2s, with the same spin, so there's no one-photon decay path. This state is therefore much more stable than most excited states (half life of around 2.3 hours if undisturbed).

          Keeping He* contained is another matte
      • Other, even higher energy (non-nuclear) fuels include:

        Metallic Hydrogen: 2 H(s) -> H2(g) 138 MJ/kg
        Free-Radical Hydrogen: H + H -> H2 104 MJ/kg
        Metastable Helium: He* -> He 480 MJ/kg
        Ionic Hydrogen: H(+) + H(-) -> H2 835 MJ/kg


        It occurs to me that if you're prepared to use magnetic confinement to store reagent ions, you can get an Isp as high as you like by using electrons and fully- (or just deeply-) ionized heavy atoms.

        Hydrogen's ionization potential of 13.6 eV gives 1.3 GJ/kg on recombination
        • Wow, didn't realize that the off-the-top-of-my-head figures and over-simplified explanation would generate so much traffic. To further explain some points:

          Yes, magnetic confinement is very lossy and low-density. Except in the case of antimatter, its probably not worth the trouble. Though a prior poster had an interesting idea about magnetic confinement in space - kinda like an M2P2 (mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion - google it for more info) thing.

          As for my choice of numbers - with a bit of work,
          • Yes, magnetic confinement is very lossy and low-density. Except in the case of antimatter, its probably not worth the trouble. Though a prior poster had an interesting idea about magnetic confinement in space - kinda like an M2P2 (mini-magnetospheric plasma propulsion

            If it was a reply in this thread, that prior poster was me :).

            Thinking about it, the best approach is probably to build a bent dipole (for preferential emission on one side), store both reagents in the same field, and vary the field strength
            • Good points...

              But when increasing the magnetic field strength or decreasing it, you'd run into problems with ions and electrons hopping field lines or effects such as Bremstrahlung radiation from changing the angular momentum as your ions and electrons orbit a field line of varying strength.
              • But when increasing the magnetic field strength or decreasing it, you'd run into problems with ions and electrons hopping field lines or effects such as Bremstrahlung radiation from changing the angular momentum as your ions and electrons orbit a field line of varying strength.

                This limits the number of burns you can do (due to limiting the number of field changes), but I don't anticipate this being a huge problem.

                Drift within the field would occur from scattering no matter what, limiting the containment
                • Re. radiation, I'd worry more about synchrotron radiation than Bremsstrahlung. Bremstrahlung is only important when you're imposing a very strong acceleration on the charge (i.e. smacking it into a solid target).

                  I thought that's what was implied with a change in the field strength? You're right though that synchroton radiation would be more important except when the accelerations approach instantaneous.

                  As for heating the reaction, couldn't you hold a core of hot plasma and flow the colder stuff aroun
                  • Re. radiation, I'd worry more about synchrotron radiation than Bremsstrahlung. Bremstrahlung is only important when you're imposing a very strong acceleration on the charge (i.e. smacking it into a solid target).

                    I thought that's what was implied with a change in the field strength?

                    The accelerations involved in any kind of macro-scale displacement or compression of the fuel are far too low for bremsstrahlung to be significant. The minimum threshold above which you generally worry about x-ray emission fr
    • Re:fuel, my ass! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jeif1k (809151)
      You're right that hydrogen needs to be generated. The way hydrogen solves the looming oil shortages is by using it for energy storage and transport: the use of hydrogen allows solar and wind energy to be generated where they can be generated efficiently and then safely shipped to where they are needed.
  • As a fuel? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by dtfinch (661405) *
    It takes energy to pack energy to release energy.
  • Hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Couldn'tCareLess (818316) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:12PM (#10506030)
    "which leads to the possibility of using it as a non-polluting fuel or high-explosive."
    I wonder which one will get funding...
    • The military has always been on the cutting edge. The game in the military is to have as much energy at your fingertips in a stable condition that is easy to use.

      This is what commercial applications want as well, but without nearly the need of concentrated energy and with higher safety tolerances. (IE, we don't want a nuclear reaction to go critical in commercial applications.)
    • by nartz (541661)
      "...using it as a non-polluting fuel or high-explosive..."

      Its obvious! A Non-polluting high explosive, duh!
    • The military already has plenty of high explosive. On the other hand, they use lots of fuel and are just as interested in improving efficiency as the rest of us, if not more. I don't see any reason why the military would fund research into using this as an explosive over using it as a fuel. But don't let me spoil your conspiracy theories...
  • caseless ammunition (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    seems like it would be good for use in ammunition smoke and greeseless, compact,light, maby water resistant,
    if they can get it to detonate only under specific conditions it seems like it would make good caseless ammunition charge
  • Drilling? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paster Of Muppets (787158) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @03:34PM (#10506274)

    How about using it as a tip for drilling? If so, you'd need to work out how much pressure it could sustain, as well as its hardness factor (on the Mohs Hardness Scale [galleries.com]). If it would have explosive tendencies at high pressure, I suggest it not be used to drill for oil. However, it could replace natural diamond to drill for metals, provided it is "harder" than them. If it should explode while drilling for metals, this could be rather useful...

  • Buy your honey a nitrogen diamond encrusted wedding ring - when she leaves your ass and takes half your shit you can just blow the bitch up.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Better yet, don't call her a "bitch" and then maybe she might not leave your ass and take half your shit!
    • " Buy your honey..." Where did you wander in here from? This is /., terrortory of CMOS (Celibate Monks Of Sarcasm), the only honey we TRULY know we buy in little bear shaped containers. BTW, laffed my *ss off! GOOD IDEA!
  • Kirk: Scotty... have you... gotten... the Diamond... Nitrogen... crystals, re... crystalized? Scotty: We've put them in Mr. Spock's boot-crack. He's giving it all he's got. Spock: Mmmmm. Pure energy.
  • by manganese4 (726568) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @09:12PM (#10509648)
    From the pictures each nitrogen unit cell appears planar and the polymer appears in sheets, much more like graphite than diamond.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.

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