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  • [September 22, 2017]

    Prof. Qian Wang and collaborators discover a tri-anion particle with colossal stability

  • College of Engineering researchers have achieved a feat that is a first in the fields of physics and chemistry—one that could have wide-ranging applications.

    Prof. Qian Wang’s team in the Center for Applied Physics and Technology in the College of Engineering at Peking University, and researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have created the most stable tri-anion particle currently known to science. A tri-anion particle is a combination of atoms that contains three more electrons than protons. This discovery is novel because previously known tri-anion particles were unstable due to their numerical imbalance. These unstable particles dispel additional electrons, interrupting chemical reactions.

    The research team used multiple electron counting rules to design the multiply charged anion, BeB11(CN)12 tri-anion, and carried out a variety of state-of-the-art theoretical calculations to prove its stability. The results suggest that this tri-anion is extremely stable. This finding opens the door to a new class of super-pnictogens.

    This work is featured on the cover of Angewandte Chemie, a world-renowned chemistry journal. The team's article was designated a VIP paper by the publication, which means it is considered among the top five percent of papers for its contribution to the study of chemistry.

    "By replacing CN with SCN or BO, we found that BeB11(SCN)123- and BeB11(BO)123-are also thermodynamically stable against spontaneous electron emission," Wang said. "Such tri-anions are very important as we found that they can be used to design electrolytes for aluminum-ion (Al-ion) batteries as well as for engaging noble gas atoms such as Xe in chemical reaction."

    Aluminum is rich in supply, cheap in price, and less reactive, as compared to lithium,. The research progress in the tri-anions would speed up the development of Al-ion battery.

    The first author of this paper is Mr. Tianshan Zhao, a Ph.D. candidate in Wang’s Group. Prof. Wang and Prof. Puru Jena from Virginia Commonwealth University are the co-corresponding authors. This work is partially supported by grants from the NSFC, and the National Key Research and Development Program of China.

    More information: Tianshan Zhao et al, Colossal Stability of Gas-Phase Trianions: Super-Pnictogens, Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2017). DOI: 10.1002/anie.201708386