Ames lab scientists solve structure of boron monoxide

In a quest to uncover novel 2D materials, a team of scientists from Ames National Laboratory achieved a breakthrough by determining the structure of boron monoxide. This compound, initially discovered in the 1940s, had eluded researchers for decades due to technological limitations at the time. However, with the aid of advanced NMR methods and analytical tools, the team finally cracked the puzzle of this seemingly simple material.

Frédéric Perras, a scientist from Ames Lab and part of the research team, revealed that their original focus was on developing a carbon-free covalent organic framework, a porous material with a regularly ordered crystal structure held together by covalent bonds. Despite numerous attempts, they couldn’t produce a highly crystalline covalent organic framework, leading them to inadvertently create a boron-based material that proved difficult to characterize.

As they delved deeper into their research, they stumbled upon literature dating back to the 1940s, which described the synthesis of boron monoxide but failed to determine its structure. Armed with modern materials research technology and their expertise in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, the team decided to tackle this century-old enigma.

Boron monoxide is formed using precursor molecules that act as building blocks, joined together through dehydration reactions. To understand the structure, the scientists needed to determine the physical arrangement of these blocks. Through their novel NMR methods, they discovered that adjacent precursor molecules were arranged parallel to each other, aligning with one of the previously proposed models.

Additionally, the team used other techniques, including powder X-ray diffraction, which revealed that these nanosheets organized themselves into a “turbostratic arrangement.” Picture it like a stack of paper thrown onto a desk—while they’re not perfectly aligned, they maintain their stack.

The significance of this discovery lies in the recent interest in synthesizing new boron-based 2D materials. Understanding the structure of boron monoxide could pave the way for the synthesis of other valuable boron-based 2D materials, making it an exciting development for the scientific community. Perras expressed enthusiasm about solving the structure of this fundamental material, considering its straightforward chemical formula as “BO.”

Source: Ames National Laboratory

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