Traditionally nitrogen is only known to exist as one allotrope: dinitrogen gas (two nitrogen atoms firmly bonded together), which is what forms more than three-quarters of our atmosphere.
The gaseous nature of nitrogen led researchers to believe any flat, crystalline form wasn’t possible for the extremely abundant gas. Before now, there was no “diamond” for nitrogen, but now researchers have shown that nitrogen has more in common with its periodic table-mates than scientists previously believed, by successfully forming and observing so called “black nitrogen” under conditions of extremely high temperature and pressure.
“We were surprised and intrigued by the measurement data suddenly providing us with a structure characteristic of black phosphorus,” says Dominique Laniel, lead author of the study. “Further experiments and calculations have since confirmed this finding. This means there is no doubt about it: nitrogen is, in fact, not an exceptional element, but follows the same golden rule of the periodic table as carbon and oxygen do.”
Black nitrogen is extremely fragile and quickly dissipates when either the temperature or pressure is decreased but it’s discovery is certainly noteworthy. As chemists continue to have the means to carry out more extreme heating, cooling or pressurised reactions due to advances in technology or production techniques, this is a great example of what’s possible.
With our own range of pressure reactors (designed and manufactured in the UK) continually growing the potential for both bench top and large scale reactions under pressurised conditions is open to all, with exciting results!