Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the television show Big Bang Theory is known to be quite the physicist. He's also known for his catchphrase—bazinga!--which has served as an inspiration for the creation of a new chemical compound.
Iowa State University graduate student Na Hyun Jo was sitting at home watching the show when inspiration struck. She watched as the symbols for barium, zinc, and gallium appeared onscreen, and thought that someone should try [creating a compound out of the three chemicals](https://arxiv.org/abs/1706.09872). Who knows? Maybe the new material can be something amazing.
Thus, researcher Paul Canfield at Iowa State University got his together and got to work on creating the BaZnGa compound. “There was no known ternary compound with barium, zinc and gallium,” says Canfield. “Wouldn’t that just be smashing if we could find one, and maybe it would have interesting properties.”
Canfield had high hopes for the Big Bang Theory-inspired compound. He thought that BaZnGa could be a superconductor, or could have never-been-seen “topological electronic properties”. The team had a lot of speculations on what the compound could be like, but the only way to find out was to actually create the compound itself.
And create it they did. However, the compound wasn't all that amazing and did not reveal any special properties. It's not a superconductor, and it didn't reveal any surprises. Even so, the researchers are still in high spirits. Their research, which they considered to be the “fun” part, revealed a new crystal structure of barium, zinc, and gallium.
Thus, even though the researchers didn't come up with a compound that had remarkable properties, their work was still able to reveal something previously unknown about known elements. After all, “a reason for trying to make something is exploring for unknowns,” explains Canfield.
It's not uncommon that television shows like the Big Bang Theory inspire scientific research. Canfield and his team's findings may not seem much now, but they can be the building blocks of future research. Who knows—the findings may someday lead to the remarkable things the team had had hoped for.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!