- Number 397 |
- September 16, 2013
Strong forces at work in simple table salt
The glow given off when a salt becomes
a solid was a critical “hint” to the team that
the conventional wisdom underlying salt
formation was incomplete.
WInside the chemical processes to synthesize simple table salt crystals, or NaCl, intense electric fields occur, according to scientists at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The 5 GV/m fields, typically associated with particle accelerators, can alter the NaCl solution's electronic structure. These findings are the next step in determining the exact mechanism underlying salt's crystallization and the long-lived cobalt blue light emitted during salt formation.
“The basic point is that if luminescence occurs, something very different is actually happening than what we think is happening," said Dr. Bernhard Sellner, a PNNL postdoctoral fellow and a theoretical chemist on the study.
The scientists’ ultimate goal is to control the synthesis of matter to make materials capable of innovative leaps in capturing, storing, and transducing energy. Exquisite control over material synthesis could lead to solar cells that capture more light to improve their efficiency or catalytic nanoparticles with significantly less precious metals, reducing financial and environmental costs. This level of control requires a fundamental understanding of synthesis at the molecular and electronic levels.
"Our goal is to control the synthesis of matter to make whatever we want, whenever we want, out of whatever we want," said Dr. Shawn Kathmann, the chemical physicist who led the research.This work was funded by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences and used resources from National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center.
[Kristin Manke, 509.372.6011,