Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Surprise shift

A first-of-a-kind switch in chemical bonding by a zirconium atom spotted by scientists

A zirconium atom can switch easily between two different bonding patterns in an unusual molecule created by Japanese scientists.

The molecule’s odd behavior is the first example of this particular type of chemical bonding shift, according to Noriyuki Suzuki of RIKEN's Advanced Science Institute in Wako, and his colleagues at Saitama University and Saitama Institute of Technology. “These complexes have very unique structures and show interesting movement,” says Suzuki.

The team discovered the phenomenon when they were experimenting with a molecule (hexapentaene) made from a chain of six carbon atoms, all doubly bonded to each other. The chain is surrounded by a long cloud of delocalized electrons, which can bond with a zirconium-based compound to create a new complex.

Once the new complex has formed, the zirconium atom normally tends to bridge between carbon atoms in different parts of the chain, creating a five-membered ring. But when very bulky groups were added to each end of the chain, the zirconium switches its allegiance so that it sticks to just the central carbon–carbon double bond.

The complex could be toggled between its two bonding modes by adding or removing other chemical groups such as phosphines around the zirconium atom. Further experiments showed that this sort of shift was the first step in a reaction the scientists had previously studied, where adding an isocyanide chemical to the zirconium complex created a compound with a small ring of four carbon atoms at its heart.

This switching behavior is well known in certain ring-shaped organic molecules, but is much rarer in these molecular chains, and is unprecedented with this particular compound. “It suggests the possibility of a molecular motion like scissors or tongs,” says Suzuki. The research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (1).

Suzuki’s team has spent several years investigating a range of such zirconium complexes, which were long assumed to be too unstable to isolate2,3.

Although there are no immediate applications for this family of complexes, Suzuki suggests that it may be possible to use the scissoring action identified in their latest research to capture another molecule or ion. “We might be able to achieve a molecular machine that catches a certain target,” says Suzuki.


1. Suzuki, N., Hashizume, D., Yoshida, H., Tezuka, M., Ida, K., Nagashima, S. & Chihara, T. Reversible haptotropic shift in zirconocene–hexapentaene complexes. Journal of the American Chemical Society 131, 2050-2051(2009) .

2. Suzuki, N., Nishiura, M. & Wakatsuki, Y. Isolation and structural characterization of 1-zirconacyclopent-3-yne, five-membered cyclic alkynes. Science 295, 660–663 (2002).

3. Suzuki, N., Hashizume, D., Koshino, H. & Chihara, T. Transformation of a 1-zirconacyclopent-3-yne, a five-membered cycloalkyne, into a 1-zirconacyclopent-3-ene and formal “1-zirconacyclopenta-2,3-dienes”. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 47, 5198–5202 (2008).

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the RIKEN Chemical Analysis Team

Saeko Okada | Research asia research news
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>