Chemists at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung are working towards creating more efficient and sustainable chemical processes for academia and industry. In order to achieve this goal, it is essential to have a fundamental understanding of the properties of elements and their molecular compounds. Bismuth is a metal that has potential for catalysis but has not yet been fully explored. A team led by group leader Josep Cornellà and director Frank Neese at the Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung has discovered a unique property of new bismuth complexes that could lead to the development of new types of catalysts.
Bismuth is more readily available and less toxic compared to other metals, making it an attractive option for catalysis. Additionally, it has special properties that other ‘classical’ catalysis candidates do not have. The Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung team has been interested in bismuth for quite some time due to its potential advantages.
The team found that there are still some “white spots” in the chemical landscape that need to be tapped. They recently published their work on an intriguing property of new bismuth complexes in the journal Science. The researchers are striving for the rational design of chemical processes that lead to more efficient and sustainable chemistry for academia as well as industry.
Bismuth Molecule with Unpaired Electrons Shows No Magnetism
Atoms consist of the atomic nucleus and an atomic shell formed by electrons. When molecules are synthesized from atoms or fragments, pairs of electrons from different atoms usually come together to form chemical bonds. However, chemists are often interested in situations that deviate from this norm. This is the case when molecules have unpaired electrons, which tend to be highly reactive and readily interact with other molecules.
The Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung team discovered a molecule containing bismuth that has unpaired electrons but shows no magnetism at all. This is unusual because molecules with unpaired electrons are normally always magnetic. The solution to this perplexing situation has to do with the special position of bismuth in the periodic table of the elements.
Bismuth is the heaviest of the stable elements, and all subsequent elements are radioactive. Due to the particularly heavy atomic nucleus, the electrons show a special behavior that can only be understood with the help of Einstein’s theory of relativity. These properties lead to the initially perplexing experimental finding. The researchers explain that their molecule is not really ‘non-magnetic,’ but there is no magnetic field on Earth strong enough to detect magnetism in their system.
The researchers were able to calculate the properties of this molecule from first principles of physics using the quantum chemistry program package ORCA, developed in Mülheim and widely used throughout all chemical disciplines by tens of thousands of chemists worldwide. With their work, the scientists from Mülheim have added an important point to the “chemical profile” of bismuth. This discovery could be significant in the future when designing new types of catalysts.
The Max Planck Institut für Kohlenforschung team has found a bismuth molecule with unique magnetic properties. This discovery has added an important point to the “chemical profile” of bismuth and could lead to the development of new types of catalysts in the future. The team’s work emphasizes the importance of understanding the properties of elements and their molecular compounds to create more efficient and sustainable chemical processes for academia and industry.