Child creates molecule that could be used for energy storage or explosives
By Ben Coxworth
February 6, 2012
I don't know about other people, but when I was a child, I was inventing things such as a musical instrument made out of a folded piece of cardboard and some rubber bands. Ten year-old Clara Lazen, however, has done something a little more noteworthy. The fifth-grader from Kansas City, Missouri, built a model of a molecule that is new to science. If the molecule itself were to actually be created, it could possibly be used for energy storage, or in explosives.
Lazen built the model out of balls representing oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms, as part of a science exercise at Border Star Montessori School. When her creation was spied by her teacher, Kenneth Boehr, he emailed a photo of it to his friend Robert Zoellner, a chemistry professor at California's Humboldt State University. Zoellner in turn checked the Chemical Abstracts online database, and determined that Lazen's model was unique - although a previously-archived molecular model did incorporate the same formula as Clara's, its atoms were arranged differently.
Dubbed tetranitratoxycarbon, Clara's molecule contains the same combination of atoms as nitroglycerin, and according to Zoellner, could potentially be used to store energy or create a large explosion. A paper on his findings, listing Lazen and Boehr as co-authors, was published last month in the journal Computational and Theoretical Chemistry.