Researchers in Uppsala, Sweden, accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend and ended up solving a century-old chemistry problem. Their work has led to the development of new material, dubbed Upsalite, with remarkable water-binding properties. Upsalite promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing in industry....
When one mixture was accidentally allowed to react over a long weekend, researchers came back to find a gel. It turns out the gel was formed because methanol molecules had been trapped within the material. When heated to 70°C, which is above the boiling point of methanol, the gel “solidifies and collapses into a white and coarse powder.”
- Jane, entering the lab and flipping the lights, glances around the room
- John, following behind, yawning
- Jane, inching toward a table covered in a blue gelatinous substance
- Did you leave the burner on Thursday night?
- John, yawning
- Me? No way, I left early.
- We all went for drinks. I don't remember who was the last out.
- Why, what happened?
Jane points at the blue goo.
- John, eyes widening
- What the hell is that?
- Not what it's supposed to be, I can say that much.
- John approaches the table warily
- How'd that happen? Which reaction was this?
- I think it was Fred's magnesium oxide mix.
Jane and John ponder the accident in silence.
- Jane, pulling on rubber gloves and a set of safety goggles
- Say, whaddya think'll happen if we heat it up some more?