Give Now

A Moment of Science

An Accidental Molecule

Find out what accidental discovery has global warming scientists excited.

man looking up at sky

Photo: stuartpilbrow (flickr)

A newly discovered molecule could help slow the effects of global warming.

Often times, scientific discoveries happen by accident.

Surprise…It’s A Molecule!

British scientists were tinkering with molecules meant to interact with bioengineered cells.

During an experiment, they left an organic solution overnight to evaporate.  The next day, they found crystals left behind.  And when they examined them, the scientists found something unexpected: the crystals contained carbonate–molecules that form in the presence of carbon dioxide.  In other words, the molecules in the solution had absorbed carbon dioxide from the air.

A Solution To Global Warming?

This is exciting because many scientists have been searching for a chemical solution to global warming.  Molecules that act as carbon sponges, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could reduce CO2 levels and help reverse the warming trend.

Not Exactly A Quick-Fix

Now, the accidently discovered molecule is by no means a solution to global warming–at least not yet.

For the molecule to be of much use on a wide scale, the researchers would need to figure out how to isolate the tiny part that specializes in absorbing carbon.  And even then, it’s not clear how much, or how well, the molecule would work as a carbon sponge.

But it’s still an interesting–if accidental–step toward one possible way to curb global warming.  At the very least, studying this accidental molecule may help chemists and other scientists get even closer to helping cool the planet through chemistry.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science