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Scientists Create Compound With a Single Element

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the a-bit-of-a-hermit dept.

Science 163

rocketman768 writes "An international team of researchers including scientists at the Carnegie Institution has discovered a new chemical compound that consists of a single element: boron. Chemical compounds are conventionally defined as substances consist of two or more elements, but the researchers found that at high pressure and temperature pure boron can assume two distinct forms that bond together to create a novel 'compound' called boron boride."

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Eh? (4, Insightful)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732583)

I think my head just exploded. Compound, of one element. What next transparent aluminum?

Re:Eh? (4, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732637)

Don't you mean aluminum oxynitride? http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123012131 [af.mil]

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734481)

Yes I'm fairly sure that is what s/he meant.

Re:Eh? (4, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732723)

I think my head just exploded. Compound, of one element. What next transparent aluminum?

Geez, get with the program! Next, an element made of two different atomic molecules.

Re:Eh? (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732883)

Well, since you're still existing post head explosion, we can only assume you're in possession of some sort of super apocalyptic disease that will be the end of us all.

Consequently, we're going to have to nuke you from orbit (as this is the only way to be sure).

Re:Eh? (4, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733107)

Well, he did say he only THINKS his head exploded.

By the theory of Occam's Razor, it's much likely he's just delusional...

no, next is dilithium crystals (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733369)

as anyone knowledgeable of the star trek timeline is intimate with

put your forehead in your hand and stare at the table in shame in your best jean luc picard and hand in your star trek credentials at the door

Speak for yourself (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733701)

We're intimate with dilithium crystals??

tsk tsk tsk (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733903)

if you are true star trek fan, yes

Re:Eh? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733643)

Oxyboron.

Best. Tag. Ever.

I _actually_ blew snot over my keyboard laughing when I saw that.

Re:Eh? (1)

alexibu (1071218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734285)

Agreed. The oxyboron tag is one of the wittiest single word comments that I have ever seen.

Re:Eh? (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734319)

Iron Ferrite?

Re:Eh? (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734761)

>>I think my head just exploded. Compound, of one element. What next transparent aluminum?

I think most people don't realize is that Boron is the mythic "Fifth Element" we hear so much about in the films.

It can do anything.

Re:Eh? (2, Funny)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734887)


Milla Jovavich is carved out of Boron? I don't believe it!

Give me the time with Milla Jovovich in a room (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735235)

I'm a machinest.

It is... (0, Redundant)

FreeFull (1043860) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732601)

Boring.

Re:It is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733557)

Lame.

Re:It is... (1)

bishiraver (707931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734413)

Actually, it's pretty interesting. He used a genetic algorithm to find the theoretical structure.

I don't understand (4, Interesting)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732621)

Why is this not an allotrope [wikipedia.org] ? I'm not a chemist so excuse me if the answer seems obvious to those with a better understanding.

Re:I don't understand (4, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732663)

Why is this not an allotrope [wikipedia.org] ? I'm not a chemist so excuse me if the answer seems obvious to those with a better understanding.

That's exactly what I was wondering. The title made me wonder "what? graphite? diamonds?"

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733335)

Because an allotrope is a different arrangement of the same element on its own.

You can find a diamond and you can also find graphite.

This would be like a graphite diamond.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734155)

This would be like a graphite diamond.

A diamond point pencil? there might be a market for that...

Re:I don't understand (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734931)


At last, a wedding ring you can make notes with! There will be a lot of happy girls this year.

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732671)

From the wiki article, it gives the example of diamond and graphite as carbon allotropes.

In this example, it's two different forms of the same element bounded together as one compound ... similar but different.

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732715)

Reading the intro paragraph of the article, I have an answer.

This is an IONIC compound. Someone felt that it was an unnecessary or unimportant distinction to make.

It's the first IONIC compound to be composed of only one element.

Re:I don't understand (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733275)

Isn't that what things like O2 are, also? Or am I remembering my high school chemistry incorrectly?

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733325)

Basically an ionic compound is formed when one part has a whole positive charge and another has a whole number negative charge. So table salt consists of Sodium Chloride or a Sodium that has a +1 electric charge and a Chlorine with a -1 charge. (Opp attract so they stick.) However O2 isn't held together because one oxygen atom has one charge and the other doesn't. Instead they form a covalent bond which is basically the 2 oxygen atoms share electrons and that's what makes them stick to each other.

Re:I don't understand (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733397)

Yeah, I figured that out when I read further down in the comments.

But thanks for explaining it. You did a better job than some of the others.

Re:I don't understand (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734317)

If you're going to read a bunch of comments, why don't you do that *before* asking a question?

Except of course it isn't REALLY that simple... (5, Informative)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733797)

Not to say you are at all wrong, it is a good explanation, but the distinction between 'ionic' and 'covalent' bonds is really one of a matter of degree between 2 extremes.

At the one extreme we have single element compounds like H2 or O2 in which the electronegativity of the component atoms is (by definition) equal and thus have an even charge distribution and are entirely covalent. This is the simplest case.

At the other extreme we have substances like NaCl which are made up of atoms with extremely different electronegativities. However there is no such thing as a purely 'ionic' bond. Even in an extremely polar molecule like NaCl the charge distribution isn't ENTIRELY Na+1 and Cl-1. It very nearly is, but not quite.

MOST compounds are far less clear cut. Even H2O's bonds, which are fairly polar and is composed of 2 species with very different electronegativity the bond is generally characterized as having both an ionic and a covalent character.

So, our boron boride is also going to be a compound which is not going to be entirely clearly either ionic nor covalent.

The real problem is that these terms only signify useful generalizations about how chemical species behave. While chemistry CAN be reduced to physics in a reasonably straightforward way in principle, the reality is that most of the terms and most of the ways chemists ordinarily think about chemistry is a set of 'rules of thumb' which are based as much on observation and valued as much for their general utility as they are based on precise formulations of fundamental laws and processes. Even the notion of 'compound' is really to a certain extent a convenience and necessarily gets a bit fuzzy at the 'edges'.

Re:Except of course it isn't REALLY that simple... (4, Insightful)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733987)

Oh no doubt of course. I mean they teach you that in chem 101 and that reaction go in one direction for example. Then in chem 102 they start teaching you about how the reactions actually go in 2 direction and don't really stop but hit equalibrium. Of course in orgo they start telling you how what they originally showed to you a compound with distinct single and double bounds really isn't like that and it's sort of a mixed bond. (I mean benzene for example. The first version they might show you has alternating single and double bonds. In reality all the bonds are of the same length and the bonds are actually an intermediary between single and double bonds.) Oh well, just more having fun with chemistry.

Re:Except of course it isn't REALLY that simple... (1, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26735117)

Ionic compounds like NaCl don't exist as molecules under normal conditions.

Re:Excuse me? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26735175)

Reduced to physics? Reduced to physics!! Grr. If its being 'reduced' to physics, then is the rest of it unscientific alchemy?

Re:I don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733561)

oaky...now my head just exploded....I'm gonna grab my chem book....

Re:I don't understand (1)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734837)

It means the two atoms are bound together via ionic bonds (like NaCl, where you have an Na+ stuck to a Cl-), as opposed to covalent bonds (e.g. O2, where you have two O atoms sharing two electrons).

The difference here is that same-element covalent molecules are common place, like O2, Cl2, H2, N2, etc. A same-element ionic compound, however, is new.

Boron Boride (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733799)

Boring...

Re:I don't understand (5, Informative)

rajkiran_g (634912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732727)

AFAIK, an allotrope is just a different spatial arrangement of atoms without any transfer of electrons. However, in this case, the arrangement is such that there is a transfer of charge from one set of atoms to another.

From TFA,

How can an element be ionic? Classical chemistry textbooks indicate that charge transfer occurs when atoms have different electronegativities and this automatically disqualifies pure elements as possible ionic phases. Boron finds a surprising solution to this problem â" its new structure contains two very different types of nanoclusters, B12 icosahedra (blue in the figure above) and B2 dumbbells (orange in the figure above). The electronic structures of these two clusters are very different â" in fact, the dependence of electronic properties on the size of the cluster is well known and is the main idea of nanotechnology. Electronegativities of the B12 icosahedra and B2 pairs are different, and this causes charge redistribution and the emergence of partial ionicity in this elemental structure.

Re:I don't understand (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733091)

This one is a compound made from two different forms of the same element. First of its kind.

2 for 1 special (1)

cprocjr (1237004) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732623)

It's a 2 for 1 special, all you need is high pressure and heat! I still don't quite understand how this works though.

More like (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732625)

Boring Boride

WTF is this drek

Boring... (4, Funny)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732641)

Sorry, had to say it. :)

Re:Boring... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732705)

What a Boron!

Re:Boring... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732975)

God damnit!!!! You beat me.

Re:Boring... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733871)

Boring Boride?

shut up you moring boron! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734905)

:-)

Oblig. Quote (4, Funny)

Dragonshed (206590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732651)

"Nobody does it like molten boron"

http://theinfosphere.org/images/thumb/7/78/Molten_Boron.jpg/200px-Molten_Boron.jpg [theinfosphere.org]

Re:Oblig. Quote (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732675)

403: Permission denied.

Here's a torrent link for some music by a band called 403 Forbiddena: http://isohunt.com/torrent_details/25669029/403+forbiddena?tab=summary

They are a j-pop group that tries to imitate power metal and they have a fucking harpsichord.

Re:Oblig. Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733019)

Probably deeplink prevention. Go here [theinfosphere.org] instead and follow the appropriate link.

Re:Oblig. Quote (0, Redundant)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733077)

Link gives 403 error.

Re:Oblig. Quote (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733623)

Not if you copy the link and then paste into your browser's address field. That way there's no referrer.

Re:Oblig. Quote (3, Informative)

en.ABCD (881787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733573)

The site's running MediaWiki, so the image description page, by necessity, is at http://theinfosphere.org/Image:Molten_Boron.jpg [theinfosphere.org] (also, a full size version of the image is at http://theinfosphere.org/images/7/78/Molten_Boron.jpg [theinfosphere.org] , but you will get another 403 if you just try clicking that link)

Oblig. CORRECT Quote (1)

caitsith01 (606117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734497)

Would be "Nobody doesn't like molten boron!"

This makes me hungry.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732679)

Where's my pizza pizza?

Puzzled.. (2, Insightful)

UPZ (947916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732681)

Whats the difference between that, and say, N2 or O2? Aren't those also compounds of a single element?

Re:Puzzled.. (5, Informative)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732787)

they're covalent, not ionic.

Re:Puzzled.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733835)

Don't you think?

Re:Puzzled.. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732807)

Whats the difference between that, and say, N2 or O2? Aren't those also compounds of a single element?

With oxygen and nitrogen the two atoms are identical for all intents and purposes. They share electrons evenly. In this case you have boron atoms that are giving up electrons and boron atoms that are accepting them to reach a stable state. So they're behaving differently, rather than the same.

Re:Puzzled.. (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733617)

What about... two hydrogen atoms sharing one electron? Wouldn't one be an electron donor and the other a receptor? Or is that splitting hairs? (Honestly, I don't even know if that bond is possible.)

Re:Puzzled.. (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733649)

I'm pretty sure you can probably get those two to bind together with some work. What I'd like to know is if you could get two of them to stick to an oxygen atom and sort of share their electrons amongst them. Honestly - is that bond even possible? Well, I suppose by now someone has managed it.

Water? (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733875)

Which you've described reasonably well. 2 H's and an O will quite happily share electrons and come out of your tap too. That bond is not an 'even split' though, the oxygen holds tighter to the electrons and gets more than its 'fair share' of them.

Water is somewhat 'sticky' (viscous) because of this fact. The O part of it has a bit of a negative charge, and the H parts a bit of a positive charge, so it is a 'polar' molecule and the H side of one water sticks a bit to the O side of the next one. This gives water its very high boiling point and other interesting properties.

In terms of types of bonds it is a mixture, partly covalent, partly ionic.

Well, H2 (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733853)

Common hydrogen gas, is 2 hydrogen atoms sharing TWO electrons. It is a reasonably stable and entirely covalent compound. That is you cannot say that one hydrogen has BOTH electrons and the other hydrogen has none. Each one has a 'share' of both electrons at once, and that share is exactly equal.

The difference with this boron boride is that some of the boron atoms have a bigger share of the electrons than others, which is at the very least pretty unusual for a compound with only one type of element in it.

By ordinary 'textbook' chemistry like you would learn in Chem 101 you would say 'impossible', but that's mostly because textbook chemistry is a bunch of generalizations that provide a 'good enough' answer MOST of the time for common cases.

Sort of like if you say 'my Farrari can beat any car on the road'. It may be true, but then there will come that day when you spin a main bearing and get dusted. All the chemists are agog! (and I worked in the obligatory car analogy, yippeee! ;)

Re:Well, H2 (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734177)

It sounds like it's not actually the boron atoms that configure themselves differently, but rather groups of boron atoms. So you don't really have a boron-boron compound (Chem 101 is still technically right), but more of a boron allotrope 1 - boron allotrope 2 combination. Kind of like a single element alloy, or a semiconductor doped with itself.

Re:Puzzled.. (1)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733261)

You have to have electro negativity charge difference > 2 in order to be considered ionic.

Eh, its a rule of thumb (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733885)

All bonds between different species are at least PARTLY 'ionic' in character. At least until now though NO bonds between like species have demonstrated ANY ionic character (at least that I know of). So it is interesting.

Re:Puzzled.. (1)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733565)

As I'm sure has been repeated, it appears that this is a compound of Boron where the Boron exists in two different covalently bonded structures, with different electronegativities. This results in the two structures forming ionic bonds.

Big Deal.... (3, Funny)

The_One_Ring (599329) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732725)

Call me when they make Hydrogen HexaHydride!

Re:Big Deal.... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733625)

I know that you're joking but...

That's definitely not going to work. It's highly unlikely that anything with fewer electrons than Li is going to be capable of doing that sort of sorcery. Doing it with Boron is kind of neat.

And on top of that it's unlikely that an odd number of atoms is going to work without the atoms having an even number of electrons.

Of course it's been a long time since I took chemistry so I might be wrong.

Unimpressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732765)

Call me when they produce Helium Heliate

Related (5, Funny)

Walkingshark (711886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732821)

Boron Boride, the nobleman? This discovery is an abomination, like the Boride of Frankenstein. And isn't Boron the cousin of the famous Ukranian trumpet player, Boris Boride? I know, my jokes are so bad you must think I'm a total stupid boron. What happens when you drill the surface of something? You boron it. What happens when the drill goes out of control and starts flopping all over the place and you're stuck on top? Boron bo-ride!

Ok I'll stop.

*OT* Re: Karma (3, Funny)

zobier (585066) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733029)

Finally out of Bad Karma hell, lets see how long THAT lasts.

You won't help the situation by joking around (no Karma for Funny), you need to bash Microsoft or something.

Re:*OT* Re: Karma (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733633)

Or haxxor Cowboy Neil to make it possible to get karma from funny.

Re:Related (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733035)

Well, I for one, am looking forward to your bor-oncore later.

all you are doing (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733339)

is compounding your embarassment

Re:all you are doing (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733709)

Oh crud. I have mod points and already posted to this thread. Hopefully someone gives you some +funnies.

Re:Related (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733723)

I'm thinking Spider Robinson probably isn't fearing for his job right now.

I have to say... (0, Redundant)

Arceliar (895609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732831)

this news bores me.

Ninnle used in the research! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26732877)

This important discovery could not have been made without the support of Ninnle Linux, the operating system used to run the research software. It was the only OS deemed stable enough to run the precise, demanding calculations. Three cheers for Ninnle Labs!

Yes, but was it .... (-1, Redundant)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732929)

...Boron in the U.S.A.?

(with apologies to Mr. Springsteen)

Re:Yes, but was it .... (-1, Redundant)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733501)

Yes, but was it .... (Score:1, Redundant)
by unitron (5733) on Wed Feb 04, '09 09:57 PM (#26732929)

Methinks that someone who doesn't understand the meaning of "redundant" got mod points.

Re:Yes, but was it .... (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733849)

It's a shame I can't mod this post redundant. It would have been funny.

Miswritten summary (4, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26732935)

Frankly, the article is interesting enough without mangling it in the summary.

This is the first ionic crystal to consist of only one element. As a compound, by definition, contains two elements, it's not a compound. A boron ionic crystal is substantially different from, say, the multiple allotropes of carbon, though.

However, this is a solely theoretical crystal -- it hasn't been synthesized.

Don't be a boron ! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733045)

Who gives a flying F about this anyway - seriously how does this advance the human race?

Or repay deep-out-of-the-money home mortgages?

Boronic, isn't it ?

Re:Don't be a boron ! (3, Funny)

robbrit (1408421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733167)

Because boron boride is actually the cure for cancer. You'll see.

Re:Don't be a boron ! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733301)

Because boron boride is actually the cure for cancer. You'll see.

Yes, first you need to pressurize the patient to 100,000 atmospheres. Tada! You're no longer going to die of cancer.

Re:Don't be a boron ! (1)

ElectricRook (264648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733303)

Because every new vapor-ware discovery will cure cancer, make free power, and cause your re-productive organs to tingle.

Remember, when you gaze into the boron boride crystal, the boron boride crystal gazes back into you.

Re:Don't be a boron ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733895)

Who gives a flying F about this anyway - seriously how does this advance the human race?

Or repay deep-out-of-the-money home mortgages?

Boronic, isn't it ?

Your post, or the research?

Re:Miswritten summary (3, Informative)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733745)

Actually it has been synthesized. The structure was determined using a computational method, though. In other words, they couldn't use standard techniques to interpret the x-ray diffraction data and had to use the evolutionary structure prediction method mentioned in the paper.

What I find kind of amazing is the news article mentions a Vickers hardness of 50 GPa. The journal article doesn't mention anything about that, unless it is somewhere in the supplementary materials, but anyway, if the news article estimated correctly based on the reported phase transformation pressures...that's pretty damn hard!

Re:Miswritten summary (1)

Tellarin (444097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734615)

Isn't it basically just the same as regular Boron (49GPa)?

Boron Boride Boring (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733377)

Did anyone else read that as "Single scientists join compound for singles...".

Oblig. Family Guy reference: (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733547)

Boron Boride: Buzz Killington's [wikipedia.org] little brother...

Boron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26733757)

More like "Boron!"

No, wait... dammit

Boron? (1)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733801)

*sings* No body does it like, molten boron!

Re:Boron? (1)

aerthling (796790) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734079)

I thought the slogan was was "Nobody doesn't like molten boron", not "Nobody does it like molten boron".

?

already been done (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26733979)

They already invented this, it's called arctic silver. Okay, maybe those are 3 different silver compounds but I could have sworn it was 3 different silver atoms like ions or something. Iunno. There's always hydrogen and deuterium and tritium. Those don't normally sort.

Na-Na+ (4, Interesting)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26734137)

In the mid-1990s I studied with the book Chemistry in Context by Hill and Holman. The companion book of experiments and real-world applications had a chapter on anions of alkali metals, and it included a picture of the crystalline self-compound Na-Na+.

Carnegie? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734141)

why is it important to high light the Carnegie institutet?

I don't get this story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734149)

Where's the obligatory Australian connection?

Not only Boron (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26734835)

What about mixing diamond with graphite?

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