Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cleaning up Xe chemistry 38 years later?

In the world of chemistry, one of the most brilliant accomplishments was the synthesis of inert gas compounds by Neil Bartlett. In first year chemistry classes, this work sometimes comes up in a discussion of ionization potentials. Bartlett recognized the similarity in first ionization potential of O2 (oxygen) and Xe (xenon). Bartlett made the compound O2+PtF6-, and, by analogy, reacted Xe with PtF6. Some chemistry professors leave students with the idea that Bartlett's product compound was Xe+PtF6-.

Here is an excerpt from Berkeley College of Chemistry's "News and Publications" for summer 2006:

In 1962, Bartlett and other scientists were reluctant to spend too much time unraveling the intricacies of XePtF6 when there was a whole new world of noble-gas chemistry to explore. Bartlett continued his research on noble gas and fluorine chemistry while a UC Berkeley chemistry professor. The difficulties of working with PtF6 meant that the most definitive paper on the nature of XePtF6, published in 2000 by Bartlett and his colleagues, came 38 years after his initial discovery and one year after Bartlett had retired from active research at the College of Chemistry.

The product of the reaction of Xe and PtF6 is primarily not Xe+PtF6-. Some early work in the area came from the so-called Argonne Group, including Henry Selig, who would later work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Selig would later study the fluorination of buckminsterfullerene, with unfortunate consequences.


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