New Superatom Is Both Stable and Magnetic

JACS Spotlights March 22, 2022

Superatoms are small symmetric clusters of atoms with electronic states bunched together into closely packed shells. Like their individual-atom counterparts, superatoms with filled shells have the greatest electronic stability. Typical stable octahedral transition metal chalcogenide clusters have a single set of filled electron shells and they have no net spin magnetic moment outside an applied field.

Now, Amymarie Bartholomew, Xavier Roy, Shiv Khanna, and co-workers have theoretically predicted a new type of cluster that would uniquely combine high stability and a large spin magnetic moment (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c00731). This theoretical cluster has two subshells: one with 57 valence electrons and one with 50, optimal numbers of electrons to create a large gap between the highest occupied and lowest unoccupied orbitals. They synthesized this new cluster, [NEt4]5[Fe6S8(CN)6], which has high spin magnetic moment (S = 7/2) and a fully delocalized electronic structure.

The new clusters can accept or donate electrons, and they can form multicomponent solids with other species while maintaining their internal structures. They could be used to make materials with programmable electrical conductivity, optical properties, and thermal transport, as well as tunable and switchable magnetic ordering. Potential applications include single-molecule magnets, magnetic superatomic crystals, and catalysts.

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