Are Tetrahedrons the New Spherical Atom?

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Atoms are the smallest unit of matter, which bond to form molecules. These molecules exist in different shapes such as a sphere or a tetrahedron (Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2018). It has been believed for centuries that spherical atoms have the highest geometrical symmetry and the most amount of quantum states. The quantum state of an atom changes when one of its electrons instantaneously jumps to another orbital (World of Physics, 2001).

Quantum numbers describe the properties of a certain electron within an atom such as its orbital, spin direction, shape of the orbital, and magnetic properties (UXL Science, 2008), which changes when it makes a quantum/instantaneous leap. New research done by the Tokyo Institute of Technology on Sept. 18th, 2018, discovered that tetrahedrons (molecules with a tetrahedral molecular shape), have an even higher degree of symmetry, more quantum states, and a higher degeneracy than a spherical atom. Degeneracy is a property obtained from a high level of symmetry, which means that a particle has multiple quantum states within the same energy level. Degeneracy also creates high magnetic and conductivity properties (Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2018). As quoted by Professor Kimihisa Yamamoto, “We have demonstrated that realistic magnesium, zinc, and cadmium clusters having a specific tetrahedral framework possess anomalous higher-fold degeneracies than spherical symmetry” (Yamamoto, 2018).

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The special type of symmetry shown in Figure 1: The Symmetry of a Tetrahedron vs. a Spherical Atom, depicts that tetrahedrons possess are more so created by the dynamic characteristics of its quantum system (how its quantum states changes), rather than because of its geometrical properties. Furthermore, the interactions of the atomic bonds within the molecule also contribute in constructing a tetrahedral with properties more powerful than a spherical molecule (Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2018).

The Structural and Space-Filling Structures of a Tetrahedron, the first image (on the left) is a ball and stick model of an osmium tetroxide molecule, and the second image (on the right) is a space-filling model of the same molecule. Both have the molecular shape of a tetrahedral, with four atoms bonded to a central atom. If the unique type of tetrahedral symmetry is applied in nanostructures, they would expose undiscovered electric and magnetic properties that could be used to make modern materials in nanotechnology to build the latest electronics (Tokyo Institute of Technology, 2018). Nanotechnology is a field that could be explored a lot more, due to its complexity and wide range of uses. There are plenty of benefits that stem from using nanotechnology, and many more that have yet to be discovered for society and the environment. On the other hand, there are also drawbacks to using and applying nanostructures to both society and the environment.

An advantage of nanotechnology for society is that it expands the scientific world’s knowledge of nanostructures, which is used to upgrade current electronic devices. Since there is a positive correlation between the usage of devices to the upcoming generations (Zickuhr, 2011), they will build a greater need for newer and better electronics, and nanotechnology can provide it for them. The application of nanotechnology to build these modern devices will satisfy the needs of society and the businesses that sell these products, which enhances the economic system. Nanotechnology is also utilized to create nanomaterials such as bulletproof materials to protect people from attacks, and is used in household products to constitute efficient air filters, stain removers, paints, and more. To add, high-power rechargeable battery systems for automotives are also based on nanotechnology, which provides better automotive maintenance. Moreover, nanotechnology is applied for nanomedical reasons like improved cancer treatments, vaccines, and arteriosclerosis (National Nanotechnology Initiative, n. d. ). Even though there are many benefits that come from using nanotechnology, there is also one drawback. People may experience more damage to their bodies from nanoparticles because they have higher surface areas than bulk materials, which causes more exposure to these substances that are slightly more harmful than bulk particles (Zhang et al. , 2011).

Environmentally speaking, nanotechnology poses plenty of favourable aspects in terms of taking care of the earth. This is because it reduces the amount of waste that is produced in manufacturing processes; making the process more efficient and environmentally cleaner. Nanotechnology can also be applied to help filter air, water, and soil to omit pollution and greenhouse gases. Additionally, it is used to create more efficient solar cells for more renewable energy, and lowers the need for large industrial power plants by correcting environmental damage. Although there are many advantages for using nanotechnology to help the environment, there are also a few disadvantages that come with them. For starters, lots of energy is needed to produce nanoparticles, and since it’s in high demand, an even greater amount of energy is required to manufacture these nanoparticles to meet the needs of scientists and society. Moreover, the circulation of common nano substances can cause harm to the environment, as they are man-made and do not belong in the ecosystem. When these nanoparticles are created, they aren’t recovered or recycled as often as they could be, meaning that scientists are making new nano substances and disposing them after one-time use. The unknown can also be a drawback, as the environmental harm to life cycles are not clear (Zhang et al. , 2011).

Tetrahedrons provide a plethora of opportunity to the field of nanotechnology, society and the environment. While exploring and experimenting will advance the human race’s knowledge of nanotechnology and nano substances, precautions must be set in place to ensure that the benefits are used to the best of their abilities, and the drawbacks are kept to a minimal.

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