High-pressure chemistry has created a new explosive nitrogen compound

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from Skoltech, the Carnegie Institution, Howard University, the University of Chicago and the Institute of Solid State Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for the first time have obtained an exotic compound of potassium and nitrogen K2N6 – it contains six-atomic nitrogen rings, fraught with explosive energy.

Although the synthesis of the substance required several times higher pressure than is achieved under industrial conditions, this is a step towards a new nitrogen compound suitable as explosives or rocket fuel.

Nitrogen is a critical ingredient in almost any explosive, be it TNT, dynamite or gunpowder. This is because each nitrogen atom has three unpaired electrons, and two such atoms are extremely willing to form a triple bond with each other, that is, an N 2 gas molecule with three common electron pairs.

It turns out that it is enough to collect more nitrogen in the compound where it participates in any other bonds, and the explosive potential is provided. After all, the atoms will tend to regroup at the first available opportunity with the release of a large amount of heat and N 2 gas .

Skoltech professor Artem Oganov, who did the calculations on the synthesis of the new six-ring nitrogen nitride, says: “People thought for a long time that pure nitrogen would be the ideal explosive, if only it could be obtained in a form that does not contain N 2 molecules.

In general, our predecessors have already done this, who synthesized at a pressure of one million atmospheres such forms of nitrogen in which any two neighboring atoms have one common electron pair, and not three.

High pressure chemistry has created a new explosive nitrogen compound

While such a solid form of nitrogen can certainly explode, it requires such extreme pressure to produce that scientists continue to experiment with other nitrogen-rich compounds, which now include a new nitride from a study published yesterday led by Alexander Goncharov, a researcher at the Institute Carnegie, where the experiment was carried out.

“The compound we have obtained is called potassium nitride and has the formula K 2 N 6 . This is a crystal, the synthesis of which takes place at a pressure of 450 thousand atmospheres. But the substance is stable even at half the pressure,” says Goncharov.

In this crystal, nitrogen forms flat hexagons, in which the bond between two neighboring atoms is intermediate between single and double.

The lattice is arranged in such a way that these hexagons are interspersed with potassium atoms, but it is the nitrogen “rings” that are of particular interest.

Scientists note that the new material falls short of practical applications , since the pressure required for synthesis is still too high: a good result in terms of technology would be to reach 100,000 atmospheres.

Nevertheless, the work is a step in the right direction and contains interesting results from the point of view of fundamental chemistry.

“Our new high-energy material is yet another manifestation of bizarre high-pressure chemistry,” adds Oganov, who recently published a paper ( read more ) that revises and adapted to the high-pressure region the fundamental concept of electronegativity in chemistry.

Through the prism of new electronegativity, not only unusual nitrogen-rich materials become clearer, but also all sorts of other exotic compounds that span the entire periodic table.

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