For nearly 200 years, scientists have known that the elements molybdenum and oxygen can form various large molecules, which usually impart a unique blue color to aqueous solutions. Only recently have scientists been able to isolate these molecules, but no one was able to explain their supramolecular structure in solution, until now. In a paper scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (available online August 20), Tianbo Liu, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory, describes the unique "blackberry" structure, which may represent a new, stable solute state never seen before.
"The nature of molybdenum blue solutions has remained a fascinating enigma for inorganic chemists since the late 1700s and early 1800s," said Liu. In 1826, scientists discovered the first so-called polyoxomolybdate (POM) molecules with a chemical formula of Mo5O14, and realized that the electronic state of the molybdenum atoms was responsible for the blue color in solution. However, the molybdenum blue solutions contained many more complicated molecules. For a long time, scientists were unable to isolate these molecules.
Recently, however, scientists have isolated several different polyoxomolybdate molecules from various molybdenum blue solutions -- all "giant" compared to other inorganic molecules (see http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2002/bnlpr_spotlights_2002.htm). Unlike other water-soluble inorganic compounds, such as common table salt (NaCl), giant POMs do not exist as single ions in water. Instead, they cluster together. But scientists were still unable to understand the structures of these aggregates, even with the help of electronic microscopes.
Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
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