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When 10-year old Clara Lazan was assigned a classroom science project, neither she nor her teacher Kenneth Boehr, would have guessed that her random creation would be hailed as a scientific discovery, worthy enough to be published in a scientific journal.
It all began when the fifth-grader who attends Border Star Montessori School in Kansas was given a molecule kit and asked to come up with a unique arrangement. Clara used her imagination to create a rather unusual combination of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon atoms - Something her science teacher had never come across before.
Intrigued, he sent a picture to a close friend who also happens to be a computational chemist at California's Humboldt State University. Turns out that Professor Robert Zoeliner had never encountered this molecule arrangement before either.
In order to check if it had ever been done, he plugged the sequence into an online database that has chemistry related literature dating all the way back to 1904. To his surprise, he found only one paper and while it had the same formula, the arrangement was completely different.
While this accidental molecule, which has been called Tetranitratoxycarbon does not occur in nature, it could potentially be synthesized in a laboratory. In fact, since it contains the same atoms as nitroglycerin, the active ingredient in dynamite and rocket propellants, Professor Zoeliner believes it could be a new way to store energy or, create large explosions!
While excited about the potential of the molecule, Clara is more thrilled by the fact that she and her science teacher have been listed as co-authors in the research paper Professor Zoeliner had submitted to the scientific community for consideration. For how often does a 10-year old get a name in a science paper? Pretty cool!