Bash brothers of chemistry discover unusual material

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'Katsenite' named after McGill researcher who analyzed short-lived material’s chemical structure
Published: 23Mar2015

In late 2012, a trans-Atlantic team of researchers co-led by Friščić reported they had been able to observe a milling reaction in real time, by using highly penetrating X-rays to observe the rapid chemical transformations as a mill mixed, ground, and transformed simple ingredients into a complex product.  Now, the researchers have used this technique to discover a short-lived, structurally unusual metal-organic material created during the milling process. In a paper published March 23 in Nature Communications, the scientists dub the material “katsenite,” after the first author of the article, Athanassios D. Katsenis. Now a postdoctoral fellow at McGill, Katsenis was a visiting student in Friščić’s group when the research was conducted. He analyzed the topology of the material -- the arrangement and connections between the structural ‘nodes’ of its crystal structure -- and realized that it didn’t correspond to anything previously seen.

The discovery provides the first concrete evidence of something that has long been suspected, the researchers conclude:  milling creates temporary phases with chemical structures that are not achievable under conventional conditions.

“While this particular katsenite-type structure is unlikely to be of any practical use, the discovery represents a breakthrough that impacts our understanding of large-scale processing of materials and opens a new environment to generate previously inaccessible structures,” Friščić says. Besides all that, he adds, “It is just great to have a chemical structure type named after a researcher at McGill!”

Other contributors to the study include a group led by Ivan Halasz from the Institute Ruđer Bošković (Croatia), as well as researchers from the Max-Planck Institute for Solid-state Chemistry (Germany) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF, France).

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In situ X-ray diffraction monitoring of a mechanochemical reaction reveals a unique topology metal-organic framework,”Katsenis et al, Nature Communications, 23 March 2015. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7662
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150323/ncomms7662/full/ncomms7662.html

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IMAGE: Schematic view of katsenite’s topology, with different colours depicting different types of nodes in its crystal structure
CREDIT: Athanassios D. Katsenis

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