Sathya Achia Abraham
VCU Communications and Public Relations
(804) 827-0890 firstname.lastname@example.org
By tinkering with a zinc molecule, Virginia Commonwealth
University researchers have discovered it can exist in
a higher oxidation state, opening the door for a new form
of chemistry and new composition of matter.
The oxidation state of an element is key to understanding
processes in chemistry and biology including redox
reactions, catalysis and reaction mechanisms. For decades,
chemists have been fascinated with the possibility that the
group 12 elements of the periodic table, which includes
zinc, cadmium and mercury, could exist at a higher
oxidation state. Previously, scientists had found mercury
to exist in the +IV oxidation state, but have never shown
that zinc, being much lighter in weight compared to
mercury, could exist beyond the +II oxidation state.
A new series of theoretical work by Puru
Jena, Ph.D., distinguished professor of physics at VCU,
and his graduate student Devleena Samanta, shows that
'higher and unusual oxidation states of metals can be
achieved using ligands with large electron affinities such
In the study, Jena and Samanta demonstrated that by using
specific ligands that satisfy two important criteria - high
electron affinity and no tendency to coalesce - unusually
high oxidation states of elements can be stabilized. The
discovery was published online last month in the Journal of
the American Chemical Society.
"Our new findings open the door for a new kind of chemical
reaction, and therefore new chemistry," said Jena.
"We believe that our work provides a new perspective on how
to manipulate oxidation states and therefore one can
imagine tremendous applications of this in all sphere of
chemistry and material science," said Samanta.
The work was supported in part by the Department of Energy,
grant number: DE-FG0296ER45579.