The Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) recently published a paper co-authored by Jason Keith, assistant professor of chemistry. The paper is titled “Covalency in Lanthanides. An X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and Density Functional Theory Study of LnCl6x– (x = 3, 2).” It can be viewed at the JACS website.
Keith explained that there are two types of bonding in chemistry, ionic and covalent. Lanthanides are traditionally thought of as only participating in ionic bonds, but this paper shows they actually form covalent bonds, as well.
“To me, this feels like finding an animal that we thought was previously extinct. The existence of that animal may not change our lives, but it shows us that some of our previous assumptions about the world around us were incomplete at best,” Keith said about the new discovery.
Why is this important?
“Lanthanides are in a family of elements known as rare earth elements, which have broad applications due to their spectroscopic and magnetic properties that make them important in the development of magnets, superconductors, luminescent materials and lighting, lasers, fiber optics and much more,” said Keith.
While the researchers’ work is not specifically linked to those materials, the team hopes that by better understanding the bonding process it will lead to improvements in applications involving any lanthanide-containing materials.
Keith conducted his research both at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and at Colgate. He was a director’s postdoctoral fellow at the lab from 2010-2013, and in addition to his research on lanthanides he also worked with other scientists studying nuclear waste.
Like many faculty members at Colgate, Keith continues to collaborate with scientists from around the world, and based on this paper, and the implications, the collaboration shows no sign of stopping any time soon.