Kryptoxide is Born — Superman Breathes Easier… For Now


Krypton. The very term has been associated with two major influences in our lives. The most obvious being Superman, a superhero created in 1938 that hailed from the planet Krypton, and subsequently his downfall, attributed to the material known as Kryptonite. The second association with Krypton is with the color green (which may also have its origins with the popular comic’s version of Kryptonite). All this being said, Patryk Zaleski-Ejgierd and Pawel M. Lata, two theoretical physicists out of the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) have figured out how to synthetically produce an oxide of krypton. This would be the very first binary compound consisting of krypton and oxygen. It requires an immense amount of pressure, created by what is called a diamond anvil.

Krypton Monoxide

Crystal structures of Krypton Monoxide, stable on left, less stable on right. Image from IPC PAS.

Crystals of krypton may be deadly to Superman, but the element we know as krypton is a noble gas that’s technically incapable of forming any stable chemical compounds. However, the two scientists involved are confident in their prediction that the synthesis of this new crystalline krypton monoxide is very possible. Using the nomenclature, Kryptonite would be a combination of Krypton and Nitrogen, hence ‘Kryptoxide’ (KrO), the combination of Krypton and Oxygen, should be safe to Superman.

Computer simulations suggest that these Krypton monoxide crystals can be formed under 300 to 500 million atmospheres, which is quite achievable in today’s modern laboratory. The cell unit of this monoxide is a cuboid with a diamond base, krypton atoms at the base. The oxygen is on the side walls of the cube, where there are 5 atoms of krypton. Thus, each atom of oxygen is chemically bound to the two nearest adjacent krypton atoms, creating a zig zagging pattern of a long polymeric structure. Another less stable compound, Krypton tetroxide (KrO4) may also be a possibility over 340 million atmospheres of pressure. For both these oxides, the ability to stay combined in a stable form would be doubtful seeing that the pressure of the earth’s atmosphere is so low.



Krypton by XKCD

  Source: Scientific Reports
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