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Absence Makes a Researcher Grow Curious

A researcher at Brigham Young University wondered why nature favored some arrangements of the atoms that make up materials over others. He enumerated all the possible regular and periodic arrangements of atoms allowed by geometry and found that some patterns on his list were never seen by scientists. By measuring the effect of chemical bonding, he discovered a trend in nature toward arrangements that are most ordered. Still, some very "ordered" structures were absent. The researcher's own computer calculations predicted some of these absentee structures. This research led to some likely candidates for new arrangements of atoms in crystals that have never been seen, including some compounds of silver, platinum, palladium and cadmium. Experimentalists are working to see if these new structures can be observed. These research results demonstrate how to use computers to design new materials with desired properties.


  • Computer simulation of atomic structure of a molecule
By measuring the effect of chemical bonding, researchers discovered a trend in nature toward molecular arrangements that are most ordered.
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