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A new molecule and a new signature

12:03pm, February 12, 2002

In a pair of discoveries, separate groups of researchers have identified a novel form of nitrogen and determined the spectroscopic signature of another curious molecule. Both molecules are unstable, making it difficult to create and study them.

Fulvio Cacace and his colleagues at the University of Rome "La Sapienza" created the novel form of nitrogen. Known as tetranitrogen, or N4, the new molecule consists of two units of N2–the most common form of nitrogen molecule in air–connected by a long bond, the researchers report in the Jan. 18 Science.

Tetranitrogen is the first new polynitrogen molecule discovered or synthesized in about 50 years. The first, N2, was identified in air in 1772. In 1956, the first molecules of N3 were made in a laboratory. In the years since, chemists have been trying to make more polynitrogens.

It's not entirely an academic exercise. Tetranitrogen could open

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