10-Year Old Girl Accidentally Discovers A New Explosive Molecule, Co-Authors A Paper

When they mean young blood in science, they aren’t kidding. Let me introduce the molecule tetranitratoxycarbon, a compound containing nitrogen, carbon and oxygen. The molecule might be usable as an explosive. Further, it is not listed in the Humboldt State University (HSU) database and can, thus, be classified as a completely new molecule. Now, allow me to introduce to you the discoverer of the molecule – 10 yr old Clara Lazen of Kansas City!

Prof. Robert Zoellner of HSU standing with a ball-and-stick model of the molecule that Clara made. (Courtesy: gizmodo.com)

Just another fifth grader – and an explosive discovery!

Clara might just be a normal fifth grade student, but she just got her name into a paper, which she co-authored with Robert Zoellner. It all started in science class when Kenneth Boehr, her science teacher, brought out the ball-and-stick model and allowed the students to just play around. The ball-and-stick models are used to visualize simple molecules and often proves quite instrumental in explaining the angles and lengths of bonds right.

What Clara did was put the balls of different colours – representing different atoms – in a particularly complicated manner. When she asked Boehr whether this represented any real molecule, Boehr was at a loss. Instead of chucking out the work of the 10-yr old., he took a photograph and sent it to his friend Robert Zoellner, who works at HSU. Zoellner was interested and checked the HSU database only to find that there exists no such molecule. Zoellner confirmed that this should be a perfectly working molecule, but doesn’t occur in nature and hasn’t been synthesized as yet! 10-yr old Clara had made a discovery!!

Tetranitratoxycarbon resembles nitroglycerin, can store energy and can thereby be used as an explosive. Zoellner wrote a paper on this molecule which appeared in Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, and both Boehr and Clara are listed as co-authors.

Here’s another to be added to the list of explosive discoveries!

Story courtesy: gizmodo.com

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.