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Niobium in bloom

“Flowers” bloom inside a device that works like a pressure cooker at a University of São Paulo Chemistry Institute (IQ-USP) laboratory. “We put in neobium ammonium oxalate and ammonium hydroxide,” says chemist Marcos Vinícius Petri, who synthesized the compound in partnership with his colleague, Eduardo Carmine de Melo. “In the right proportions, at the right temperature, and under the right pressure conditions, crystalline structures that look like leaves and flowers are formed.” These miniscule bouquets can only be seen using an electron microscope. The shape enables them to function more efficiently as catalysts because they have a greater contact surface area. The lab is dedicated to understanding how these compounds work.

Image submitted by Marcos Vinícius Petri, a PhD student at IQ-USP