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A new family of hyperhalogens

An international team of researchers has discovered a new family of highly electronegative chemicals called hyperhalogens, which consist of superhalogen building blocks surrounding a metal atom. These new chemical substances could have applications in many industrial fields.

Yellow: gold, red: oxygen, pink: boron. One, two and four BO2 units are bound to a gold atom
Yellow: gold, red: oxygen, pink: boron. One, two and four BO2 units are bound to a gold atom

Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (USA), McNeese State University (USA) and Konstanz University (Germany) reported their discovery in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Chlorine is one of the elements from the halogen family, which also includes the elements fluorine, bromine and iodine. These substances are known for their ability to be used as disinfectants and substances that reduce odors, and they are also used in several industrial and medical processes. The researchers claim that their new materials, the hyperhalogens, could be useful in industry in cases where large amounts of halogens are required in cleaning or disinfecting agents.

The halogens are known to be highly reactive, due to their ability to accept a single electron and combine with another element or compound. Chlorine, for example, is easily combined with sodium to obtain table salt. The sodium tends to donate one electron while the chlorine tends to accept this electron, as if a perfect match, according to the researchers.

"The halogens need only one electron to reach their stable state," says the lead researcher. "They are much more stable as a negative ion (anion) than a neutral atom." From the moment the halogen atom receives one electron and becomes a stable form, a negative ion, its excess energy is measured as the electron affinity. In the periodic table of the elements, chlorine has the highest electron affinity, with a value of 3.6 electron volts (or eV). One of the research areas of this group of scientists is the search for ways to obtain new families of materials with high electronic affinity.

In 1962 the English chemist Neil Bartlett discovered that platinum hexafluoride reacts with the noble gas xenon to form a new noble gas compound. Scientists were very surprised by this finding since xenon is considered one of the noble (stable) gases that hardly reacts with other elements. About a decade later, the Soviet scientists Gennady Gutsev and Alexander Boldyrev showed that a more extensive family of ferrites with a metal atom serving as a core and surrounded by halogen atoms, similar to platinum hexafluoride, have electron affinities higher than that of chlorine. The scientists called these new molecules "superhalogens".

"For example, you can take a sodium atom and a chlorine atom to form a sodium chloride compound and then add another chlorine atom to it. This compound will try to pick up an extra electron due to the presence of the excess chlorine atom," said the researcher. "Suddenly, the electronic affinity, which is the property we are looking for, becomes greater than that existing in the single chlorine atom. She becomes the super-halogen." The superhalogens have properties similar to halogens, improved, the researcher noted.

The researchers hypothesized that an even higher electron affinity could be obtained from a ferrode or ferrode cluster by using superhalogens as building blocks, instead of halogens, which would be located around the metal atom. The theoretical model was tested experimentally and the new forms, with the higher electronic affinities, were called "hyperhalogens." "We used gold as the metal atom and placed around it two fragments of the superhalogen boron dioxide (boron-dioxide) and got a hyperhalogen with an even higher electron affinity," explains the researcher.

Using the combined approach of the international research team, the scientists were able to obtain a gold-borate hyperhalogen with an electron affinity of 5.7 eV. The team is now testing the hyperhalogen composed of four superhalogens of boron dioxide and has succeeded in reaching an electron affinity of 7 eV, with their research goal being to reach a hyperhalogen with a value of 10 eV. These innovative hyperhalogens could lead to further discoveries of new materials, the researcher notes.

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