- A fictional show called Big Bang Theory was recently in news for being the reason behind a groundbreaking scientific discovery
- Researchers at Iowa State University and avid fans of the show were inspired by the catchphrase Bazinga! and helped discover a ternary compound
- The ternary compound is made of barium (Ba), zinc(Zn), and gallium (Ga)
New Delhi, August 06, 2017: The work of the eminent physicist, Dr. Sheldon Cooper of hit TV show The big bang theory, has served as an incitement for the creation of a new chemical compound – BaZnGa!
Those familiar with Dr. Cooper will know that his use of the phrase ‘bazinga!’ tends to be associated with a joke. Despite this, Paul Canfield, a researcher at Iowa State University, and his team decided that Dr. Cooper’s fearsome scientific reputation merited the thorough investigation of the compound he so frequently proposes.
The compound BaZnGa, made of barium (Ba), zinc (Zn) and gallium (Ga), forms a new, never-before-seen crystal structure.
However, BaZnGa did not have any other exciting features, scientists said. It behaves like other non-magnetic quasicrystals but has a different arrangement of atoms.
Its creation is part of scientists efforts to discover new materials and characterize them, said Paul Canfield, a professor at Iowa State University in the US.
Na Hyun Jo, a graduate student at Iowa State University, was the first person to get the inspiration. “I was at home and turned on the TV, and there was a show about The big bang theory and a character said Bazinga! They showed the elements barium, zinc and gallium. So I thought, Wow, I think no one has ever tried to grow this material, and maybe this could be a new discovery of a high-temperature superconductor or some kind of a quasicrystal” or something like that,’ she explains.
When Canfield was made aware of this he further probed into the matter, to check it as part of the scientific method. According to his knowledge, there was no known ternary compound with barium, zinc, and gallium. In his scientific opinion, it would have been a groundbreaking discovery to find one, hoping the compound would have interesting properties. Upon advancing their research they found that the ternary compound had superconductivity, and novel topological electronic properties, conceivably it could be not crystalline but quasi-crystalline, and a number of calculated assumptions were being made.
Sadly, further analysis did not reveal any particularly remarkable properties. However, this has not dampened the team’s enthusiasm. The researchers, who were already planning to study three-part compounds that contained barium and zinc, went ahead to create BaZnGa.
“Whenever you find a new structure, it gives you further information on how nature arranges atoms,” Canfield said.
These findings, along with others, will be discussed at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society in 2018. Incidentally, the meeting is to be held in Los Angeles – the home of Dr. Cooper. Canfield and his team hope that he will be in attendance.
-Prepared by Nivedita Motwani. Twitter @Mind_Makeup
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