Triangulene – A True Quantum Material

Chemists have made another compound nobody has any idea what to do with, called triangulene. A cousin of graphene that’s been theorized for decades but never successfully synthesized.

Triangulene is made of six benzene rings, put together edge-on to make a flat triangular flake of a molecule that has a set of unpaired electrons. It is magnetic, and it would tessellate into a sheet of graphene. The Chemists call triangulene molecules “graphene fragments.” Its makers only managed to make one molecule of the stuff at a time with atomically precise tools. It is too unstable to synthesize at scale, chemists had to use the ultra-fine gold tip of a scanning probe microscope to individually push hydrogen molecules from the dihydro form of the triangulene molecule, leaving the naked electrons, which then immediately separated.

The instability is caused by the pair of extra electrons. Chemistry has a couple of ways it describes electrons behavior. Triangulene is a superstate of being both and yet neither at the same time. Similar to how light can act like both a particle and a wave. Triangulene acts like having delocalized pi cloud of electrons, a discrete resonant single, and double-bond structure. The two extra electrons want to be subsumed into the resonant structure, but because you just cannot force carbon to make five bonds, the electrons are not going to behave as expected.

The above causes the electrons to try to slipstream into the resonant structure, and that doesn’t work. Then they go for the delocalized-cloud-of-electrons. It’s like the chemistry equivalent of going to a party and just talking to the host’s dog all night. That pair of extra electrons are stuck in a higher-energy state, so triangulene reacts with anything it encounters. Including any stray oxygen molecules that got into the testing chamber. The longest-lived sample they made persisted for all of four days before it reacted.

The scientists who made triangulene have no idea how to handle it nor what to do with it. They remark that a thorough investigation of exactly what those electrons are doing is “beyond the scope of this paper.” With the quantum nature of triangulene, there is speculation that the material would be used in quantum computing.

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1 Comment

  1. Very interesting material; allow me to nitpick on the last sentence: every molecule obeys quantum mechanics. The fact that this one could be applied in quantum computing stems from its spin configuration (spin states are used in quantum computing).

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