10-year-old student discovers molecule that can store energy

February 7, 2012

Prof. Robert Zoellner, with a model of the molecule created by ten year-old Clara Lazen (credit: Humboldt State University)

For Kansas City, Mo. student Clara Lazen, 10, a classroom assignment turned into a scientific finding: a new molecule, and her first mention in a scientific journal.

Lazen randomly arranged a unique combination of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms.

Responding to a request by the teacher, Kenneth Boehr, Humboldt State University chemistry professor Robert Zoellner, a computational chemist, searched Chemical Abstracts.

The result:a molecule with the same formula but a different arrangement of atoms than Lazen’s. But Lazen’s molecule was unique: it had the potential to store energy, with the same combination of atoms as nitroglycerin, a powerful explosive. Zoellner submitted a research paper to the January issue of Computational and Theoretical Chemistry. Both Lazen and Boehr are listed as co-authors.

Ref.: Robert W. Zoellner, Clara L. Lazen, Kenneth M. Boehr, A computational study of novel nitratoxycarbon, nitritocarbonyl, and nitrate compounds and their potential as high energy materials, Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, 2012 [DOI: 10.1016/j.comptc.2011.10.011]