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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Revealing Disparate Chemistries of Protactinium and Uranium. Synthesis of the Molecular Uranium Tetroxide Anion, UO4 –


The synthesis, reactivity, structures, and bonding in gas-phase binary and complex oxide anion molecules of protactinium and uranium have been studied by experiment and theory. The oxalate ions, AnVO2(C2O4)-, where An = Pa or U, are essentially actinyl ions, AnVO2+, coordinated by an oxalate dianion. Both react with water to yield the pentavalent hydroxides, AnVO(OH)2(C2O4)-. The chemistry of Pa and U becomes divergent for reactions that result in oxidation: whereas PaVI is inaccessible, UVI is very stable. The UVO2(C2O4)- complex exhibits a remarkable spontaneous exothermic replacement of the oxalate ligand by O2 to yield UO4- and two CO2 molecules. The structure of the uranium tetroxide anion is computed to correspond to distorted uranyl, UVIO22+, coordinated in the equatorial plane by two equivalent O atoms each having formal charges of -1.5 and U-O bond orders intermediate between single and double. The unreactive nature of PaVO2(C2O4)- toward O2 is a manifestation of the resistance toward oxidation of PaV, and clearly reveals the disparate chemistries of Pa and U. The uranium tetroxide anion, UO4-, reacts with water to yield UO5H2-. Infrared spectra obtained for UO5H2- confirm the computed lowest-energy structure, UO3(OH)2-.

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