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How Difficult Is It to Discover a New Molecule?

Some say 10-year-old Clara Lazen was just randomly arranging the sticks and balls of a molecule building toy during a science class assignment at her elementary school in Kansas City, Missouri. Clara disagrees. The design of her unique new molecule, which was later named tetranitratoxycarbon, was deliberate, she said. The pieces “fit more together,” she explained, “and look better. All the holes have to be filled in for it to be stable.” In any case, experts confirmed that Clara's creation is a chemical that could theoretically exist but has never been seen before. If a lab can synthesize Clara’s new molecule, it may be useful as an explosive, or it could be used for energy storage.

A new family of atoms:

  • Tetranitratoxycarbon consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon. Its molecular structure is similar to that of nitroglycerin.
  • The Oxford Dictionary says a molecule "is a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction."
  • New molecules are frequently discovered, or created. In recent years, molecules have been developed to kill cancer cells, battle infertility, and treat people with HIV.
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