In an effort that reaches back to the 19th-century laboratories of Europe, a discovery by chemistry researchers establishes new possibilities for the semiconductor industry - chemists have been able to trap molecular species of silicon oxides.
Using a technique they developed in 2008, the
University of Georgia
team succeeded in isolating silicon oxide fragments for the first time, at room temperature, by trapping them between stabilizing organic bases. Silicon monoxide is the most abundant silicon oxide in the universe but, terrestrially it is only persistent at high temperatures, about 1,200 degrees Celsius. Naturally abundant silica ((SiO2)n) exists on Earth as sand; a network solid wherein each silicon atom bonds to four oxygen atoms in a process that repeats infinitely.
A new paper reports two new compounds containing Si2O3 and Si2O4 cores that the team was able to isolate using the carbene stabilization technique. This synthetic strategy allowed the team to "tame" the highly reactive silicon oxide moieties at room temperature, a discovery which breaks open an area of chemistry where difficulty with synthetics has limited the research activity. Silicon-oxide materials are found in every electronic device and could hold many more applications and uses.
The columns, or groups, of elements of the periodic table generally share similar chemical properties. Group 14, for example, contains the element carbon, as well as silicon, the most carbon-like of all the elements. However, there are significant differences between the two. While the oxides of carbon, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are widely known, the molecular chemistry of corresponding silicon oxides is essentially unknown, due to the great reactivity of silicon-oxygen multiple bonds.
"Our technique seems to be an attractive means to approach a number of these highly reactive molecules," said Gregory H. Robinson, University of Georgia Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and the study's co-author. "We demonstrated that these organic bases could stabilize a variety of extremely reactive molecules at room temperature." . "We've found a backdoor to approaching molecular species that contain various silicon oxides."
Published in Nature Chemistry. Co-authors include department of chemistry colleagues Henry "Fritz" Schaefer, Yuzhong Wang, Yaoming Xie and the late Paul von Rague Schleyer.