Chunling Lan, a graduate student at McGill University, found “snow” inside his test tubes after performing column chromatography. It’s not uncommon to see a compound start to crash out of solution it’s been purified, he says, but he found these tiny white crystals mesmerizing.
Lan’s research focuses on cascade reactions catalyzed by triazabicyclodecene (TBD), a bicyclic organic base. TBD can play several different roles in a reaction, including hydrogen bonding and proton transfer. The reaction works at room temperature and doesn’t need a lot of solvent, so it’s relatively sustainable, says Lan. The compound that gave rise to the snowflake effect he saw was a precursor to a molecule that he intends to use to test a reaction he’s developing.
Submitted by Chunling Lan
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