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Nitrogen 'Diamond' Created 73

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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  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • Re:fuel, my ass! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:31PM (#10508351) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:Reminds me of... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Muhammar ( 659468 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @04:58AM (#10511791)
    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 for having a 50% chance of getting stiff. It is hard to ingest such amount without doing it on purpose. You can find much worse stuff than azide in a normal lab.

    As far as not using metalic spatulas for sodium azide, this is way overboard. Copper and other heavy metal azides are very impact sensitive but their formation because of stainless steel spatula is not an issue. Bulk storage (preferably not in a metal drum) is another thing.

    Every bottle of chemicals in US has wildly exaggerated warnings because of manufacturers liability. Acetylosalicylic acid (=aspirin) has warning: toxic-target nerves, thyroid. Benzaldehyde (food and fragrance almond flavor, present in cherry cola, soap and champoo) is labeled highly toxic if you buy it as chemical. Bottle of pure sand has warning "this material is known to state of California to cause cancer" etc.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes