Does kryptonite really exist? Superman can rest easy, for now

4 Mar 20161 Share

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Kryptonite might not prove as fictional as you once thought, with a new theory having being put forth to create the only thing known to down Superman.

That might not be entirely true, but it’s fairly close.

Polish theoretical chemists believe they have worked out a way to turn the noble gas of krypton into a solid.

Technically, though, it would be called kryptoxide, rather than kryptonite, as a team from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) attempts to bind it with oxygen to create a solid.

For those unaware, in the world of Superman, his home planet Krypton is named after the element krypton, which was previously thought to be incapable of forming compounds of any stability.

Previous looks at marrying it with nitrogen, thus forming what would be kryptonite, went nowhere. But over a decade ago scientists in Finland claimed that, under certain extreme conditions, krypton could form compounds by reacting with hydrogen and carbon.

Now, according to a paper in Nature: Scientific Reports, oxygen has emerged as the perfect foil.

“The substance we are predicting is a compound of krypton with oxygen, not nitrogen,” said Dr Patrick Zaleski-Ejgierd (IPC PAS), who sadly notes this as meaning kryptoxide is what he and his team are after. “So if Superman’s reading this, he can stay calm – at the moment, there’s no cause for panic.”

According to the findings, at 300 gigapascal units (GPa) Kr-O should form spontaneously and remain thermo and dynamically stable with respect to constituent elements and higher oxides.

The monoxide is predicted to form non-molecular crystals with short Kr-O contacts, typical for genuine chemical bonds.

“Our krypton monoxide, Kr-O, probably does not exist in nature. According to current knowledge, the deep interiors of planets are the only place where there is sufficient pressure for its synthesis. Oxygen does not exist there, nor does krypton.”

Main image of green crystals via Shutterstock

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com