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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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